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GFP News - October 26, 2016

Habitat Pays: Knowing Your Options

Joint Column By: Secretary of Agriculture Mike Jaspers and
Secretary of Game, Fish and Parks Kelly Hepler

Our natural resources, the soil we grow our food in, the water we drink and the air we breathe are some of our most valuable resources. As South Dakota’s producers finish harvest and begin planning for next year, we encourage producers to consider the many conservation programs available to them that can increase soil health, protect water quality and provide habitat for wildlife, all while helping to improve their financial bottom line.

Over the past few years, there’s been a steady decrease in the prices producers receive for the products they grow and raise. At the same time, there has been little to no decrease in the cost of production. To maintain a positive bottom line, it is important that South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers use every tool available to get the most value from their operations.

In some cases, where landowners are spending more to farm certain acres than what they can earn from the crop, looking at alternative uses for those acres may be the next step. Turning land into habitat can improve soil health and increase land values. Plus, a wide variety of financial incentives are available to landowners.

The landscape across the state is as diverse as South Dakota’s farms and ranches. No one approach or program will fit every operation nor will it achieve all of an individual producer’s goals. Just like the landscape, diverse programs are available to producers from state and federal governments and private entities that can provide financial resources and technical assistance to implement conservation practices. Additionally, there are advisors across the state who work one-on-one with producers to connect them with programs that fit their operational goals.

To make it easier to learn about which programs would work best for an operation, the South Dakota departments of Agriculture and Game, Fish and Parks have partnered over the past year to develop and maintain the Habitat Pays website at This website serves as a one-stop-shop for finding state, federal and non-governmental programs that provide cost-share or technical assistance to producers. The website includes contact information for a variety of habitat advisors who meet with landowners, learn the goals they have for their operation and advise them about options available to meet those goals. It also features landowner video testimonials of how they are working in concert with their local advisor to enhance habitat on their property. We are proud to showcase a handful of these producers and the work they are doing. These farm and ranch families share their stories and offer insight into how these programs and advisors have been beneficial for their operations.

We know that the new year is an important time for producers to make decisions about what their operation will look like for the next year. As you look ahead to 2017, we encourage you to utilize and consider how the available programs may fit into your plan.


GFP Mission: The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks provides sustainable outdoor recreational opportunities through responsible management of our state’s parks, fisheries and wildlife by fostering partnerships, cultivating stewardship and safely connecting people with the outdoors.

South Dakota Department of Agriculture Mission: The South Dakota Department of Agriculture's mission is to promote, protect and preserve South Dakota Agriculture for today and tomorrow.