Thursday, April 10, 2008

ANOTHER ETHANOL VICTIM: DUCKS & PHEASANTS

COMMON DREAMS Out on the farm, the ducks and pheasants are losing ground. Thousands of farmers are taking their fields out of the government’s biggest conservation program, which pays them not to cultivate. They are spurning guaranteed annual payments for a chance to cash in on the boom in wheat, soybeans, corn and other crops. Last fall, they took back as many acres as are in Rhode Island and Delaware combined.

Environmental and hunting groups are warning that years of progress could soon be lost, particularly with the native prairie in the Upper Midwest. But a broad coalition of baking, poultry, snack food, ethanol and livestock groups say bigger harvests are a more important priority than habitats for waterfowl and other wildlife. They want the government to ease restrictions on the preserved land, which would encourage many more farmers to think beyond conservation. . . Born nearly 25 years ago in an era of abundance, the Conservation Reserve Program is having a rough transition to the age of scarcity. Its 35 million acres - about 8 percent of the cropland in the country - are the big prize in this brawl.