Planning for Land Uses after CRP

H. Joseph Sellers, Livestock Field Specialist, Southwest Area


The south central Iowa landscape is greatly impacted by the Conservation Reserve Program.  The twelve counties served by Joe Sellers include 19.5% of total CRP acres in Iowa, and 38% of the CRP acres with contracts expiring in 2007.  This issue is important as we plan for the future of the Rathbun Watershed and other regions of southern Iowa.  Most of the Rathbun watershed is located in Lucas and Wayne Counties, and 61870 acres of CRP expire in 2007 in those counties.  This issue has been a major emphasis in needs assessment in those counties. 
The Rathbun Lake Forage Project (RLFP) is a program that local Extension staff conduct as part of the Rathbun lake Special Project, with funds the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance secured from EPA.  Activities include on-farm demonstrations on seven producer farms and at the McNay Research farm, and numerous workshops and field days held throughout the year. The future use of land currently enrolled in the CRP program is an on-going concern for the Extension council and local clients.  With cooperation from FSA and the Rathbun Land and Water Alliance, the RLFP staff conducted a random phone survey sampling of 150 landowners with CRP contracts expiring in 2007.  The participants included a random sample of contract holders in Wayne and Lucas Counties, as well as some random participants in targeted watersheds of Rathbun Lake.

The survey was successfully completed by 83 landowners with current CRP contracts.  A surprisingly high 59% of respondents indicated they would be willing to re-enroll their land in CRP at the current rate.  65% of those responding indicated that the most likely future use for these acres if CRP is not a viable option would be row crop production, with only 26% listing pasture and hay as the most likely use.  The biggest obstacles to keeping CRP in grass production were:  economics of row crop cash rent values (32%), poor fences on CRP acres (35%), no interest in raising livestock (20%), and low pasture rental rates (12%).  More detailed analysis is available from Joe Sellers at
An additional survey is currently in development by the Iowa Forage and Grasslands Council and partners, targeting more counties.  The Rathbun Land and Water Alliance is currently working on grant proposals to target CRP contract holders needing land use planning assistance.  If funded, this project will include a contract to Lucas County Extension and Sellers to assist with forage and livestock related planning.  This issue will be a continued emphasis of local agricultural extension programming.
November 16, 2005
107 -- Iowa Beef Center

Page last updated: July 4, 2006
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