Senator John ThuneSince its inception in December of 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has transitioned from a grain stock management program that helped rural farmers and ranchers prevent soil erosion to a tool that helps preserve wetlands, ensure water quality protection, and increase wildlife habitat. Today, the CRP is not only a vital tool in South Dakota's stewardship of our fragile lands, but also serves as an important link in our nation's overall agricultural policy.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1.1 million acres in South Dakota are enrolled in the CRP, providing $61.7 million in rental payments on 14,479 farms. Additionally, as another successful pheasant season concludes, South Dakota's economy has benefited from the positive impact that the CRP has on our pheasant population that draws in hunters from across the country every fall.
Recognizing the important role the CRP plays in the lives of South Dakota's farmers and ranchers, I worked hard to preserve the program's strength in the 2008 Farm Bill, while making difficult decisions that kept the bill from adding to our national debt. Since then, I am proud to have worked with the U.S Department of Agriculture on another general CRP sign up and the implementation of continuous CRP initiatives that help meet the unique needs of South Dakota.
As Congress begins discussions on the 2012 Farm Bill, the future of CRP will undoubtedly be analyzed from a budget, conservation, and agriculture economy perspective. I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to ensure viable solutions on all aspects of the 2012 Farm Bill.