Ducks Unlimited to convert 40,000 acres to forage

Prairie producers who plan to convert cultivated farmland to forages this year might end up with unexpected cash in their pockets, thanks to a program from Ducks Unlimited Canada and Crop Production Services.

The two organizations have launched a forage program that provides monetary incentives to growers who are considering converting annual cropland to forage or pasture this year.

The program offers producers in Saskatchewan and Alberta a $100 rebate on every 50 pound bag of forage seed.

Producers in Manitoba will receive a rebate of $50 per converted acre.

Eligible growers must use forage seed that carries the Proven Seed label.

“Declining prices for wheat and other cereal crops … are leading many landowners to seriously consider the move to increase their cattle herd (and) this, in turn, spurs a demand for increased forage,” said Craig Bishop, Ducks Unlimited’s regional forage lead in Alberta.

“The drought of 2015, in particular, resulted in many poor hay crops in several areas and further motivated producers to convert additional land to forages.”

Ducks Unlimited ran a similar program with CPS last year, which converted 25,000 acres of prairie farmland to forage production.

Richard McBride, a Ducks Unlimited conservation specialist in Saskatoon, said producer interest in the 2016 program appears to be strong.

There is no limit to how much money a single producer can collect, but there are other limitations, he said.

For example, the program has a prairie-wide limit of 40,000 acres.

In most cases, eligible acres must fall within regions that Ducks Unlimited has identified as priority areas, but some exceptions may be made, depending on location and proximity to waterfowl habitat.

“We have no limit per landowner so if we’ve got one guy that wants to seed 2,000 acres, we’re happy to work with him,” said McBride.

“We also have a western Canadian limit of 40,000 acres … so for Saskatchewan, we probably have an upper limit of roughly 14,000 acres that we could fund.”

McBride said there are no application deadlines.

The program is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.

To receive the rebate, growers will be required to submit an invoice from a Proven Seed retailer.

Ducks Unlimited staff will check fields this summer to confirm that the land has been seeded and forages are growing.

“We really don’t have a deadline, so to speak … but we would like to see the forages seeded by the middle of June,” McBride said.

Growers will be asked to keep their land in forage production for 10 years.

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