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A new Plowprint report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) reveals that 1.8 million acres of grassland habitat in the Great Plains of U.S., Canada, and Mexico were plowed up in 2020, primarily for row crop agriculture. This large-scale habitat destruction continues to be a major contributor to the precipitous decline of songbird populations and other wildlife species throughout the Great Plains.

Pronghorn Antelope

“With millions of acres of vital grassland habitat being lost to the plow each year, we can’t sit by idle and allow this catastrophic loss of nature to continue. We’re trending in the wrong direction; losing grasslands at this pace threatens native wildlife and our own health and wellbeing,” said Martha Kauffman, vice president for WWF’s Northern Great Plains program. “We rely on grasslands for pollinators, clean water and healthy air. When grassland habitats are plowed up it puts all of us in jeopardy. But with the right policies, incentives, stewardship and increased efficiencies, we can stop the destruction and even expand native grasslands, ensuring that they’ll be around for generations to come.”

The report cites several opportunities to ensure grasslands remain intact and reverse the trend of continued habitat destruction. These include the North American Grasslands Conservation Act and the 2023 Farm Bill, one of the U.S.’ most influential pieces of grassland legislation. Adjustments to Crop Insurance, along with additional investment in the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, and Environmental Quality Incentives Program, could help conserve grasslands, improve water quality, maintain carbon in the soil, and minimize soil erosion.

An additional WWF report released today, No Grain Left Behind, indicates that on-farm losses of corn and soy crops are much higher than industry-accepted estimates, with a potential national loss of 507 million bushels of corn and 53 million bushels of soy annually. This illustrates a staggering amount of land that is used to produce row crops that are left behind in fields or never sold, all while millions of acres of natural habitat are plowed up every year for cropland expansion. Learn more about No Grain Left Behind here.

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