USDA report shows cropland erosion rates stable

By Aarian Marshall

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2014 - Cropland erosion rates remained stable between 2007 and 2010, the USDA's National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) reported yesterday as it released new data gathered under the agency's 2010 National Resources Inventory. NRCS said the stable erosion rates were surprising given “a growth in agricultural land use and more extreme weather events, such as drought and floods.”

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“We expected to see an increase in the erosion, but our numbers told a different story,” said Patrick Flanagan, NRCS' national statistician.

Though the report did not attempt to explain why erosion stabilized,,Mark Rose, director of the Financial Assistance Programs Division at NRCS, said the agency's programs may have helped.

Through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), for example, NRCS has assisted producers with developing grazing management system that contain nutrient runoff. EQIP has allowed some producers to convert to conservation systems that require less tilling of the soil, reducing sedimentation.

Under the previous two farm bills, Rose said, Congress has increased its support of conservation programs like EQIP - a “steady increase of funding available [that has led to a] steady increase of acres that can be treated.”

The farm bill being negotiated by Congress should maintain funding levels for conservation programs like EQIP, based both House- and Senate- passed versions of the legislation.

The NRI report also showed:

  • The area planted with fruits, nuts and flowers increased to 273,800 acres from 124,800 acres;
  • Cropland acres increased by 2 million acres, this following a steady decline over the previous 25 years;
  • Pastureland increased by 847,000 acres;
  • Developed land increased by 2 percent from 111.1 million acres to 113.3 million acres;
  • The acres in NRCS programs grew from about 17 million acres in 2007 to about 40 million in 2010.

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