Farmers and Wildlife Win with CP33

Earning a living by crop farming has always been a challenge. Every acre counts. And since just under a third of Missouri’s land is in crops, what’s done there makes a big difference not only for the farmers, but also for the birds and other animals that depend on that land.

In 2005, a new conservation program called CP33 was begun to pay farmers to create healthy places for quail and other wildlife along the edge of their crop fields by converting crop acres into a buffer of plants 30 to 120 feet wide. This works especially well for farmers where crops border woods and tend to be less productive anyway.

Missouri farmers are third in the nation in enrolling 22,300 acres under CP33 so far. But there’s still a potential for a whopping 10,000 more acres to be enrolled.

In studying the returns on it, University of Missouri Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) found on a representative sample of farms that CP33 improved the economic bottomline. And many landowners are reporting seeing more quail where they’ve created the CP33 buffers, too.

As noted in the Missouri Conservationist magazine, Cass County landowner Ron Highley is one of many farmers who have found that it’s better to stop farming unproductive areas along the edge and get federal payment for it instead. “And you’re benefiting wildlife at the same time,” Highley said. “CP33 creates a win-win situation.”

I’m not a crop farmer, but I sure do appreciate the challenge of earning a living from it in today’s world. So anything that helps them continue to do that while also enriching the wildlife in our state seems like something of great value to everyone. If you read this and aren’t a farmer, but know one, ask them if they’re aware of CP33. It’s a practice under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) run by the federal Farm Service Agency (FSA). That’s quite an alphabet soup, but a hearty one nonetheless.

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