USDA head suggests harvesting switchgrass on conservation land
Department of Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said Tuesday that it would be a “great idea” to allow farmers to grow and harvest biofuel-bound switchgrass on land currently set aside as wildlife habitat. More than 34 million acres in the U.S. are in the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays landowners to convert cropland to native grasses and keep it largely untouched. Environmentalists found the idea not so great; growing switchgrass on CRP land would “completely undermine the purposes of the program,” says Julie Sibbing of the National Wildlife Federation. More than 2 million acres of land were removed from CRP designation last year, and another 2 million acres are expected to be re-converted to cropland this year.