One Person's Apocalypse Is Another Person's Agriculture Boom


Environmentalists and conservation activists in North Dakota like to say that they aren’t anti-industry. They just want to find a way to protect land, wildlife, and the environment.

Sometimes that’s not exactly clear from the language they use:

North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks, the group backing a measure to divert huge amounts of oil tax money into a slush fund for conservation projects overseen by special interest groups, met in Jamestown last week. This report, and it’s use of apocalyptic language, caught my eye:

Thursday’s meeting began with a photo display of the past and present states of former Conservation Reserve Program land by local photographer Rick Bohn. CRP land is land that has been pulled or protected from agricultural production by landowners who sign multi-year contracts with the state and receive payments for letting that land go fallow.

Bohn, who has spent much of his life taking photos of the outdoors, showed what could be described as post-apocalyptic photos of CRP land in Stutsman County that was — in these instances — transformed from lush wildlife habitat to unsuccessful and eroded fields.

Bohn noted that CRP soil does not necessarily translate into good crop soil, and said over the years he’s seen more and more CRP acres fall under the plow.

“To give you an idea of the magnitude of this, we’ve lost 36,000 acres (of CRP) in Stutsman County in one year,” Bohn said. “There was 106,000 (acres), I think, in 2012, and maybe 180,000 in the year 2000.”

Post-apocalyptic? Sounds scary, but I wonder how many people would use a term like that considering what’s happening to these fields. It’s not an apocalypse. Rather, higher crop prices are inspiring framers to take their land out of conservation programs and put them into production.

Farmers across the country have enjoyed high crop prices of late, and even with corn prices and planting falling off, overall planting is up (via Million Dollar Way):

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistic Service annual puts out a Prospective Plantings report based on a survey of farmers. The report, which came out last week, said North Dakota producers are planning to plant 16 percent more spring wheat than they did last year, about 5.9 million acres statewide. Durum wheat acres are expected to total 1.1 million, up 38 percent.

As prices have started to fade, prospective corn acres are down 23 percent from last year, to 2.95 million acres.

The environmentalists call this an apocalypse. I think more reasonable people would call this land owners putting their property to productive, profitable use.