By Brendan Gibbons
In a windy northwestern Missouri cornfield, Curtis Adkins maneuvers his beefy combine in a swirling haze of chaff, avoiding the swaths of prairie grasses he’s planted on both sides.
Adkins’s farm doesn’t only produce corn, soybeans and cattle. He also cultivates wild pheasant and quail using funds from the Conservation Reserve Program, a component of the federal Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, also known as the Farm Bill. The program is set to expire in October.
Every year, Adkins takes a portion of his land out of production and works with the Missouri Department of Conservation to use it for wildlife habitat. The federal government pays him for it, but not as much as he might make selling his harvest.
“To some people it’s a loss, but I consider it a gain on my end because I got the birds back,” Adkins said.
But as much as he loves the birds, Adkins said when food prices are high, he considers putting more of his land into production.
“It’s a money game,” he said. “Everybody wants it. And I don’t blame them.”
The number of acres involved in the program is on the decline in northwestern Missouri, MDC conservationist Jeff Powelson said. After the end of September, no more landowners will be considered for the program until Congress allocates funding for it.
“It’s pretty much tabled now,” Powelson said. “They don’t know if there will be an extension to it.”
If October arrives with no extension, Powelson said he doesn’t know what MDC would do about maintaining the program.
— Edited by Teresa Avila