Will Ethanol Crush SD’s Pheasants?

January 5, 2012 | By | 2 Replies More

An article by the awesome Dennis Anderson in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (which again has by far the best bird hunting coverage of any newspaper on planet Earth) paints a picture of a very grim future for South Dakota pheasants – and by extension, pheasant and maybe quail pops in other ag states.

The culprit: you guessed it, high corn prices. On the one hand, people say they can’t blame farmers for following the money trail. On the other hand, at what cost? And have you ever met a soul who actually likes ethanol in their gasoline? Anyone who runs a boat definitely doesn’t.

Here are some excerpts from the article, though the whole thing is definitely worth reading. Thanks to Dennis for staying on top of this stuff. (Did you know he was pretty much responsible for the creation of Pheasants Forever?)

> The retired director of South Dakota’s Game, Fish and Parks Department, serving 12 years under two governors, John Cooper also has been a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agent in North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska. In those states, he traveled nearly every highway, byway and country road during a 22-year career as a federal officer.

> So when he says change is occurring to the South Dakota landscape at a rate never seen before, with far-reaching implications for wildlife and people, he speaks with a perspective few share. “What has happened here in the past four years is unprecedented,” Cooper said. “Anyone who thinks South Dakota can continue to produce the pheasants, ducks and other wildlife it has in the past just doesn’t know what’s going on here. You’re quite possibly witnessing the end of an era.”

> Responsible for the changes is what farmer, rancher and hunting outfitter Steve Halverson of Kennebec, S.D., calls a “perfect storm” of high commodity prices, rising land values, breakthroughs in crop engineering, a seemingly feverish desire by some eastern South Dakota farmers to drain their lands of water, and relatively paltry federal farm bill conservation incentives.

> “I honestly think that unless something unexpected happens, we may never see the high pheasant populations again that we’ve seen in recent years,” Halverson said. Duck production in the state is also at risk.

> In 2011, with prices hovering around $6 per bushel, South Dakota farmers planted about 5.2 million acres of corn, a 650,000-acre increase from 2010. “What’s driving it is greed,” said farmer and rancher Jim Faulstich of Highmore….

> Pheasant – and pheasant hunter – declines also are expected as crop acres increase, particularly in years such as 2011, when a tough winter and wet spring helped push the state’s ringneck population down about 40 percent from 2010.

> “The $200 million that pheasant hunting brings to the state each year can’t match the state’s agriculture economy,” Cooper said. “But the pheasant money trickles down to small-town cafes and motels and gas stations throughout the eastern half of the state. Ag money by comparison is much more concentrated.”

> South Dakota CRP lands peaked at about 1.7 million acres in 1997. But as corn prices have risen – fueled in part by federally subsidized ethanol production – CRP has declined in the state to about 1.1 million acres, with 200,000 or more acres expected to leave the plan this year.

> “There’s no longer any incentive to stay in CRP if you’re a farmer,” said Curt Korzan of Kimball, S.D. “Around here,” Korzan said, “CRP only pays $50 to $60 an acre, while farmland rental rates are $150 to $160 an acre.”

> “…what you’re looking at is the transformation of South Dakota into something more closely resembling northern Iowa or western Minnesota, where virtually all wildlife is gone,” Cooper said.

> Just three weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cleared for sale Monsanto’s latest genetically engineered marvel: drought-resistant corn. Doing so, the agency delivered a Christmas gift to South Dakota and other dry-land farmers who want to plant corn where none has grown before.

Dang! Sounds bad.

Just say no to ethanol….


Category: Farming, Feds, SD

Comments (2)

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  1. Christopher says:

    Figures….. I finally get a gun dog and the hunting is only going to get worse. GREAT! Thanks goverment subsidized ethenol pukes.

  2. Russ says:

    It, along with weather patterns, has already played a major role in the historic decline in Iowa pheasant numbers. The next farm bill should provide CRP compensation more in line with what farmers and ranchers can make with their land in production, even if it means a smaller enrollment.

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