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Business & Economics

High grain prices and market pressures raise soil health concerns

wheat crop agriculture farmer.jpg
Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay
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The interview above is from SDPB's daily public-affairs show, In the Moment, hosted by Lori Walsh.

A South Dakota expert says high prices at the grocery store could pressure farmers to plant more crops. And that could hurt the environment.

Deepthi Kolady
South Dakota State University
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Deepthi Kolady

Deepthi Kolady is an associate professor at the Ness School of Management and Economics at South Dakota State University.

She says there’s a demand for cheaper food. That’s putting pressure on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow planting on land enrolled in conservation programs.

“But that short-term response, to this particular issue, kinda negates all the cumulative gains we have accomplished so far through our sustainability efforts to address the climate crisis. Because mostly they are marginal lands, and to produce on those marginal lands, using these fertilizers, which are very highly-priced, may not be economically sustainable, and may not be environmentally sustainable.”

The Farm Service Agency administers federal conservation programs. South Dakota rancher Zach Ducheneaux is the agency’s administrator. He says producers will stay committed to conservation.

“All of that static is going on about the Ukraine and crop production and crop prices, but producers see this as a viable option—to keep this land in conservation practices because they're clearly seeing the benefits.”

The USDA says additional incentive payments will also encourage enrollment in conservation programs.