By Tom Carpenter
-- With dinner behind banquet attendees and opening day of pheasant season looming just a short night away, I had a few moments to catch up with Congressman Collin Peterson at the Minnesota Governor's Pheasant Opener before the evening gala ended.
As always, this friend of both agriculture and sportsmen found time to talk.
Peterson is the Ranking Member on the House Agricuture Committee, and his work is key to renewing Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) funding in the 2018 Farm Bill.
"I believe the bill is going to happen sooner than people think," Peterson said. "The hinge point is finding the funding." Loss of CRP ground has had major impacts on pheasant populations and wildlife habitat across Minnesota, both Dakotas, Montana and, to some extent, Iowa -- some of the hearts of rooster range.
"Getting more acres approved for CRP, and getting actual back into grass, is the goal," he said. "I think to do that we will have to pay less per acre, but create different levels of payment for different kinds of ground." In other words, maximizing the impact of the dollars that are approved for CRP.
"There's a lot of poor ground that should be in CRP, not crops, right now," he said. "But that situation goes the other way, too."
Will landowners be willing to sign up though, even with some per-acre payment rates potentially lower than before?
"Oh yes," said Peterson. "There is demand out there. We just need to get the acres approved." He is committed to that goal, and works closely with Pheasants Forever staff in Washington toward it. "I just talked to Dave Nomsen (Pheasants Forver Vice President of Government Affars) today," he said. "We're working on this. Hard. Having meaningful CRP in the 2018 Farm Bill is a priority."
Thats something pheasant hunters everywhere can take heart in.