Pheasants, Farmers & Ranchers -- More To The Story Of Habitat Change

Pheasants, Farmers & Ranchers -- More To The Story Of Habitat Change

A South Dakota outfitter warns media not demonize farmers and ranchers for the land use management choices they’ve made.

I am proud of Eric Johannsen. The other day, the Tolstoy, S.D., farmer and rancher told to a group of newspaper, outdoor and hunting writers not to demonize farmers for converting Conservation Reserve Program acres and pasture to cropland.

“They are still strictly trying to meet a demand and the demand has been there, and it is a world demand…extreme world demand,” he said.

Eric Johannsen holds three of the pheasants shot during the Pheasants Forever Media Hunt

While some ag critics believe that in recent years federal crop insurance has been too generous and South Dakota farmers shouldn’t have taken advantage of it to convert grassland to cropland or switch from growing small grains to corn and soybeans, “‘farmers and ranchers were just playing the cards they were dealt … and making a business decision to keep their farm or ranch afloat,” Johannsen said. “A lot of those guys have seen years that have really tough.”

Johannsen hosted the Pheasants Forever Media hunt. His family operates Johannsen Farms Outfitting, a business that has created one of the largest concentrations of wild pheasants in the South Dakota, according to Pheasants Forever.

The Johannsens have done it with less than 300 acres of CRP and 100 acres of food and winter cover plots and on their 5,000 farm and ranch. They no-till, rotational graze cattle and do several other things to provide pheasants with nesting habitat, food and winter cover.

“You don’t have to have huge acres of undisturbed grassland to have pheasants,” Johannsen said.

I’ll be writing more about the Johannsen farm and ranch here and in the Dakota Farmer magazine.

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