Farmland Conservation

Performance Area: Natural Lands

Acres of land in the federal Conservation Reserve Program

Why Is This Important?

Over the last 100 years, agriculture has dramatically altered Minnesota's prairie landscape. Wildlife populations declined as a majority of the historic prairie and wetlands of southern and western Minnesota were converted to croplands. Minnesota farming can play a strong role in wildlife conservation as the Federal Farm Bill’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has provided substantial conservation opportunities on agricultural lands. The 2014 Farm Bill dropped the CRP acre cap from 39 million acres to 24 million acres nationally, only to be modestly restored to 27 million acres in the 2018 Farm Bill. Despite strong gains in public land acquisition, we have had a large net loss of grasslands and wetlands with the decline of CRP and related programs.

What Is DNR Doing?

While the acres of land in federal conservation land retirement programs have decreased in recent years, acres of grasslands and wetlands protected permanently have increased.   Image 1 of 1 (use left/right arrows to navigate previous/next)

Click for more images

DNR is increasing collaboration with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR), conservation organizations, Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) and others to advocate for a stronger Conservation Title in the next Farm Bill. The DNR continues to provide funds in partnership with BWSR and Pheasants Forever to hire farm bill technicians who work out of local SWCD offices and help landowners enroll in Federal Farm Bill and state land retirement conservation programs. However, our contributions have declined due to budget issues. The DNR is encouraging enrollment in continuous CRP, Wetland Reserve Easements (WRE), and the state’s Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve Program. More importantly is the state's work to acquire 60,000 acres through the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP), which the DNR has played an active role in. We will continue to work with other conservation partners to further expand and improve the conservation provisions within federal farm policy. We will also work with partners to develop and apply tools to target conservation in marginal agricultural lands and lands with high potential to provide multiple benefits for fish and wildlife habitat, water quality and soil erosion.

Target: Secure new CRP enrollments for Minnesota, complete the 60,000 acres CREP signup, and build broad coalitions aimed at a stronger Conservation Title in the next Farm Bill.

After years of record highs, commodity prices are depressed, and landowners are expressing increased interest in CRP which both stabilizes farm economies and provides wildlife benefits. The high variability in national and global markets can be a hardship on the individual farm economy. Enrolling marginal and less profitable lands in programs such as CRP or CREP removes some of this variability and unpredictability for the landowner and may help stabilize farm incomes.