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Federal Farm Bill Conservation Program

The 2014 Farm Bill implemented policies that are very important to wildlife habitat in South Dakota. One was the re-linkage of swamp buster and sodbuster to eligibility for subsidized crop insurance premiums. Crop insurance has become the main federal support program for South Dakota farmers and this re-linkage protects wetlands and highly erodible lands from being farmed if farmers intend to receive subsidized crop insurance premiums. The other policy added by the 2014 bill was the inclusion of the “Sodsaver” provision. This reduces the incentive for farmers to convert native prairie to crop land.

FARM BILL PROGRAMS

USDA Farm Service Agency
The USDA FSA helps South Dakota farmers and ranchers secure the highest possible financial assistance from USDA programs and play a vital role to the economic survival of South Dakota's rural communities.

Conservation Reserve Program
USDA Farm Service Agency's (FSA) Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a voluntary program available to agricultural producers to help them safeguard environmentally sensitive land. Producers enrolled in CRP plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat. In return, FSA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. Contract duration is between 10 and 15 years.

The Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (CCRP) is a voluntary program, available at any time, which helps agricultural producers safeguard environmentally sensitive land. CRP participants plant long-term, resource-conserving covers to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion, and enhance wildlife habitat. In return, FSA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance.

Eligible conservation practices include riparian buffers, wildlife habitat buffers, wetland buffers, filter strips, wetland restoration, grass waterways, shelterbelts, living snow fence, contour grass strips, salt tolerant vegetation, and shallow water areas for wildlife.

CRP Initiatives in South Dakota

South Dakota Pheasants SAFE
The goal of the South Dakota Pheasants SAFE project is to enroll 65,000 acres in CRP to provide block grass acreages for ring-necked pheasants and other upland birds in the form of nesting, brood-rearing, winter-roosting and escape cover. This will help increase the overall population of ring-necked pheasants and other economically significant species such as sharp tail grouse, prairie chicken and upland nesting ducks.

Western South Dakota Grassland Wildlife Habitat SAFE
The goal of the western South Dakota Grassland Wildlife Habitat SAFE project is to enroll 32,800 acres in CRP to provide grassland cover in cropland for grassland dependent bird species for breeding, nesting, brood rearing, winter and foraging cover.  Specifically, the short-eared owl, grasshopper sparrow, dickcissel, bobolink, and sharp-tailed grouse prefer to nest in tall, dense cover such as is typically provided by CRP and are of high or moderate conservation priority in South Dakota.  It will also develop habitat for non-game grassland birds, improve water quality and reduce soil erosion.

South Dakota Sagebrush SAFE
The goal of the South Dakota Sagebrush SAFE project is to enroll 500 acres in CRP to benefit the sage grouse populations. It would restore cropland to sagebrush habitat suitable for sage grouse and other sagebrush obligate birds such as sage sparrows and sage thrashers. Other sagebrush-associated wildlife will benefit such as sharp-tailed grouse, gray partridge, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, sagebrush vole and other small mammals. One of the measurable outcomes will be to stabilize or increase the number of sage grouse leks (mating areas) and to increase the number of sage grouse in the project area.

CRP Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative (Fact Sheet) Map CP-37
The Duck Nesting Habitat Initiative aims to restore up to 200,000 acres of certain wetlands located outside of the 100-year floodplain in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. Restoring these wetlands will provide nesting ducks with critical habitat, nesting cover, security from predators, and food.

CRP Wetlands Restoration Initiative
The Wetlands Restoration Initiative aims to restore up to 133,000 acres of flood plain and non-floodplain wetlands.

CRP Farmable Wetlands Program
The Farmable Wetlands Program (FWP) is a voluntary program to restore farmable wetlands and associated buffers by improving the land's hydrology and vegetation.

CRP Habitat Buffer for Upland Birds Initiative
The Northern Bobwhite Quail Habitat Initiative is aimed at creating 350,000 acres of habitat for the northern bobwhite quail. The initiative introduces a conservation practice intended to create 250,000 acres of early successional grass buffers along agricultural field borders.

OTHER USDA PROGRAMS

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a voluntary conservation program that assists farmers and ranchers with implementing new conservation measures to address their natural resource concerns. EQIP promotes agricultural production and environmental quality as compatible national goals while optimizing environmental benefits.

The 2014 Farm Bill made the former Wildilfe Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) part of EQIP. Now a minimum of 5% of EQIP funding is required to be spent on wildlife habitat projects. 

Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)
The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated GRP, WRP, and FRPP into one easement program that has two branches. One of the branches is call the Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE). This branch is very similar to the former WRP and allows USDA to purchase wetland easements that are either permanent or for 30 years. The other branch of ACEP is the Agricultural Land Easements (ALE). ALE provides funding to eligible partners to acquire permanent grassland and farmland easements on private land. 

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