High prices for corn and soybeans are expected to prompt farmers to shift a lot of conservation land to crop production over the next five years in Minnesota.
Contracts will expire for more than 800,000 acres of land in Minnesota set aside in the federal Conservation Reserve Program.
The chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Dave White, has been in Minnesota brainstorming with state officials about how to encourage farmers to keep permanent cover on sensitive lands.
"We will now work with the producer to put in fencing, cross fencing, livestock watering facilities," White said. "If that producer wants to keep it in grass we will help them financially set it up so it can be a livestock operation."
John Jaschke, with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, said the state is experimenting with increasing the financial benefit by allowing farmers to graze animals or make hay on CRP lands.
"You do this after the nesting season, in a way that it doesn't run the site down to the bare ground," Jaschke said.
Jaschke said a work group will come up with strategies to maximize federal and state conservation programs.
Permanent cover protects land from erosion, provides habitat and improves water quality.