America’s farmlands are shrinking. Between 1997 and 2018, the US lost 98,000 square miles (627,200,000 acres) of farmland. While some of this is due to development and urban expansion, some of it is simply because farmland is abandoned.
Farmland is abandoned for a number of reasons. It may suffer from damaged soil, resulting in low crop yields that simply aren’t’ worth the effort it takes to farm them. The owners may become too old or otherwise be physically unable to continue farming. Sometimes, the farmland is passed on to people who simply aren’t sure what to do with it.
Farmland is often a sentimental property, and people are hesitant to sell it. And so, it sits untouched. This is a problem for a number of reasons.
The Liability of Abandoned Farmland
Land that has regularly been farmed is unlikely to ever return to its natural state on its own. After all, the process of tilling affects soil structure and health, as does planting the same crop year over year. While some native seeds will naturally drift onto the land from surrounding areas, it may struggle to support healthy growth. Any vegetation that does grow will face strong competition from weeds.
One study found that farmland abandoned for a year only showed 38% of the plant diversity it would have had it never been plowed. Even after 91 years, abandoned farmland is only 73% as diverse and 53% as productive as it should be.
This ultimately places a burden on both the land and the surrounding environment. Soil remains exposed, leading to increased erosion and damage to topsoil. The eroded soil typically ends up in surrounding water supplies, causing further problems. Exposed and eroding soil can also increase the occurrence dust storms.
Simply stated, abandoned farmland isn’t just a waste of potential profits. It’s a liability to the surrounding ecosystem.
What Can Be Done with Abandoned Farmland?
There are a number of options available for unused farmland that can be more beneficial to both the owner and the environment than simply leaving it fallow. You can, of course, always sell the land to someone who wants to put it to use. However, that is not your only choice.
Depending on the condition of the land and how recently it has been farmed, there are various government programs available that will provide certain compensation for converting the land into natural habitat. The most prominent of these is the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
CRP offers market-based rental payments in exchange for taking land out of active crop production and establishing native vegetation instead. A portion of the establishment costs is covered as well. Not only does this provide you with on-going revenue, but it helps to restore health to damaged soil while protecting local water supplies and providing habitat for wildlife.
In order for your land to qualify for CRP, it must have been cropped at least 4 out of the last 6 years. If you meet those qualifications, enrolling in CRP is a great way to turn a profit while making a positive impact on the environment. While it might sound like a lot of upfront work to turn farmland into natural habitat, it doesn’t have to be. Let FDCE do the heavy lifting for you.
We offer full-service CRP solutions that take care of buying CRP seed, planting it, selecting and applying herbicide, and submitting the appropriate paperwork so you get your maximum cost-share reimbursement. Our services practically pay for themselves.
Don’t let your farmland become abandoned and fall out of eligibility. Contact FDCE today to start your journey towards CRP establishment.