Agricultural Conservation: Converting Grassland to Cropland by United States Government Accountability Office

By United States Government Accountability Office

The nation's last grassland has a number of very important advantages, akin to delivering land for grazing and flora and fauna habitat for lots of at-risk species. despite the fact that, during the last three centuries approximately half the grassland has been switched over to different makes use of, mostly cropland. as well as wasting vital grassland values, such conversions can result in elevated spending on federal farm courses, resembling crop assurance, specially in marginal components. This booklet examines: the level of grassland conversions to cropland and the price of farm application funds for those newly switched over cropland acres; the relative significance of farm software funds as opposed to different components in manufacturers' judgements to transform grassland to cropland; and, any impression the Sodbuster conservation provision - which areas soil erosion criteria on sure switched over land - has had on restricting grassland conversions. This publication is an excerpted and edited variation.

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For more detailed summaries of these and other studies that we examined, see appendix V. Most of the FSA and NRCS state and local officials in Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota confirmed that farm program payments, specifically crop insurance, crop disaster assistance, and marketing assistance loan payments are important—although not always the most important—factors in producers’ conversion decisions. In particular, among the farm programs, the officials noted the importance of crop insurance because it reduces the risk of growing crops.

Table 8 shows net changes in land use at the national level, while table 9 shows changes in land use for states that—according to USDA’s National Resources Inventory—have large amounts of rangeland and cropland. Data for 1978 to 1992 are not comparable to data for 1997 to 2002 and are listed separately in the tables. This is because a different methodology was used for the latter time frame to more completely capture all relevant producers. In tables 8 and 9, “Total cropland” includes cropland harvested, cropland used only for pasture or grazing, idle cropland,[2] cropland on which all crops failed or were abandoned, and cropland cultivated in summer fallow.

Appendix IV PARTIAL BUDGET ANALYSIS FOR A PROPOSED CONVERSION OF NATIVE GRASSLAND TO CROPLAND IN CENTRAL SOUTH DAKOTA, 2003-2007 To assess the economic incentives to convert native grassland to cropland at the farm level, we used a partial budget analysis and a “constructed” farm scenario for a 160-acre tract in Hand County, South Dakota—a central South Dakota county that was relatively high in 2005 and 2006 conversions of grassland that had no cropping history. A partial budget can be used by a farmer or rancher to evaluate the economic effects of making an adjustment to a part of the farm operation, such as switching to an alternative farm enterprise or buying new machinery.

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