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#07-273 September 24, 2007

Economic analysis confirms benefits of wildlife buffers

Since 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency has administered a conservation practice, CP33 Habitat Buffers for Upland Birds, under the Conservation Reserve Program. South Carolina received 5,000 acres in 2005 and another 5,000 acres in early 2006 and about 7,000 acres have been established along the perimeter of agricultural fields on private lands. A three-year national monitoring effort began in 2006 and in just one and half years, results are showing an increase in the number of bobwhite quail and various songbirds in these buffers.

For more information about CP33 contact local your Farm Service Agency or Natural Resources Conservation Service office. For more information regarding quail habitat management, contact the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Small Game Project at barnesj@dnr.sc.gov or (803) 734-4306.

The Missouri Department of Conservation teamed with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri to complete a farm-level economic analysis (PDF file) of participation in CP33.  The study was conducted using the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute’s well-established representative farm analysis. The approach used real world yields, prices, operational costs and soil rental rates within a sophisticated computer model. Farm-level economics, validated by a panel of participating farmers from Carroll County in Missouri, were modeled over 10 years and projections of future commodity prices and operation costs were incorporated. The study focused primarily on corn/soybeans and wheat operations.

Results indicated that participating in CP33 pays off in each of the representative farm scenarios tested. The average increase in returns to family living ranged from 25 cents to $2.49 per acre of the farm per year. Government payments plus lower operating expenses exceed declines in market receipts and produced positive returns to family living over the ten years modeled.  The Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute cautions that these findings do not apply to all farms, but is most applicable where crop yields along field edges suffer from the effects of adjacent tree growth. In these situations, whether corn is bringing $2 or $4 per bushel, CP33 pays.

Yields, commodity prices, operating costs and soil rental rates were important factors affecting study results. Although net benefits were small and variable across farms, most producers should receive a positive economic return to idle acres by participating in CP33 even with strong commodity prices in the future. Recent increases in the Conservation Reserve Program soil rental rates and additional incentives in the watersheds eligible for the Conservation Security Program should provide additional positive returns to landowners. Buffers will lessen equipment damage caused by overhanging tree limbs, improve wildlife habitat, and provide more quail and songbird viewing opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts.

See video on CP33>>

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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