Farmers and state officials in Illinois are worried about potential cuts to a federal land conservation program. It pays landowners to set aside land for things like wildlife habitat.
Right now, Illinois has about 900-thousand acres of private land in the Conservation Reserve Program — that’s about six times the size of Chicago.
In exchange, the government pay landowners rent. But it’s allowed less land to participate over time, and has scaled backed payments.
Steve Washko has property in Pike County. Back then, he says, government payments made it worthwhile to use the land for conservation instead of crops. But now, he gets a lot more from tenant farmers — one pays a-hundred-sixty dollars an acre.
The program, part of the Farm Bill, is up for renewal this year in Congress.
The state Department of Natural Resources has urged interested farmers to tell lawmakers to keep the program going.