An $81,000 Ag Pilot grant from the state of Washington to Washington State University beef specialist Don Nelson will focus on one of the most nagging land use problems in the West.
The money will be used to test the feasibility and replicability of converting Conservation Reserve Program land into a vertically integrated grass-fed beef production system.
The use of CRP land for production agriculture is a point of concern among many Washington farmers who feel the idle program land should be used for agricultural production.
CRP was created in 1985 to remove highly erodible crop and pasture land from production for 10-15 years. Farmers receive annual rental payments and cost-share assistance for practices which protect the land in exchange for voluntary agreements to remove designated acres out of production. More than a million Washington acres are enrolled under CRP.
Critics of the program say by removing agricultural activities from the land – some which they charge is good production ground – local communities suffer in loss of the taxes which once came from farming, and area businesses closed because of a downturn in the need for supplies and services.
The study will take place at G&L Farms in southeastern Adams County. Owner Gregg Beckley will be project co-manager.
"We seek to develop a replicable strategy to help farmers make the transition from conventional dryland wheat production to sustainable alternatives that are profitable, good for the environment and that allow farmers to remain on the land and support rural communities," explains Nelson.
The Agricultural Pilots Project, created to develop and test regional programs and management practices that could reconcile conflicts between agricultural land uses and protection of critical areas, is funded by the state legislature.