2 months, 1 week ago farmweeknow.com
Farmers took a cautious approach to last year's high price
Many farmers have been in business long enough to know the cyclical nature of their profession quite well.
So it was no surprise that, based on a recent Farm Bureau study, most farmers took a relatively cautious approach to historically-high corn, soybean and wheat prices last year and opted not to plow up their farms and plant fencerow to fencerow.
Farmers also continued to implement environmental practices that improve everything from water quality and habitat to soil conservation, according to a landuse study commissioned by the state Farm Bureaus in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.
“The most important revelation of the study is that multiple factors affect land use change,” Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services at the Iowa Farm Bureau, told FarmWeek.
“While there were some counties (in the seven-state study area) that had a loss of grassland habitat, there was a significant amount of counties in Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and throughout the study area where there actually was an increase in the amount of grassy habitat in the face of $7 corn,” Miller continued. “That indicates farmers are doing the right thing and putting in riparian buffers, grass waterways, terraces and other practices.”
Some environmental groups in recent years expressed concern that record-high corn prices would drive farmers out of environmental programs in droves.
But, since 2007, only 3 percent of the total land area in the seven-state study shifted away from grassy habitat.
Farmers in the seven states the previous five years increased crop acreage by 3.6 million for corn and 2.2 million for beans.
Meanwhile, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres posted a slight decline (CRP acres in Illinois remained constant at around 1 million acres), while farmers in about 80 counties in Illinois and Iowa increased acres of grassy habitat.
“We are bringing land back in production when the markets call for it,” Miller said. “But (the study) shows farmers responded wisely and in environmentally sensitive ways.”
The study also did not not find a direct connection between farm programs and land use.
“Crop insurance is not a significant driver of land use change,” Miller said. “The study did show farmers are taking advantage of cost-share programs and putting conservation practices on the ground. That’s a story not being told.”
Dave White, former chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said NRCS invests about $6 billion annually in long-term land protections and easements.
"The analysis shows that just as it has for centuries, land use continues to evolve and is not just the result of farm policy or farm risk management tools,” said Philip Nelson, Illinois Farm Bureau president.
The study was conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions of Urbandale, Iowa.