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Daugaard Wants Crop Insurance to Boost Pheasants; Why Not Grasslands?

Big Ag crowds out pheasants. To restore pheasant numbers and protect South Dakota's shotgun tourism season, Governor Dennis Daugaard proposes more Big Ag, backed with more big government subsidies:

"Winter wheat is probably one of the best habitats for pheasants, and right now 24 counties in eastern South Dakota cannot get federal crop insurance on winter wheat crops," work group chair Pam Roberts said.

It's one of the first priorities Governor Daugaard plans to address.

"If all of Montana can qualify for crop insurance, why should eastern South Dakota, no more susceptible to freeze-outs than Montana, surely, why can't we?" Daugaard said [Jared Ransom, "Conserve Pheasant Habitat, Increase Pheasant Population,", 2014.09.09].

I can hardly stifle the giggles. Governor Daugaard has as much trouble with his vaunted "South Dakota self-reliance" and his buddy Mike Rounds has with "South Dakota common sense." We need more pheasants, so we need Uncle Sam to hand out more free money for growing crops that may not grow.

By the way, Pam Roberts, SDSU research says pheasants are 2.5 times more likely to nest in grasslands than in winter wheat. If you're going to throw ideological consistency overboard and seek more government handouts, why not ditch subsidies for Kristi Noem's husband and instead get Rep. Noem to undo her cuts to the Conservation Reserve Program to promote more pheasant-fostering grasslands?


  1. 96 Tears 2014.09.10

    Simple pheasant biology, according to a real pheasant biologist.

    1. Pheasants very, very rarely wander outside a one-mile radius of the point where they were hatched.

    2. Pheasants must have secure habitat 24/7/365 year after year that allows for sufficient feeding and safe nesting and roosting. Access to some water is important.

    3. Removing safe and sufficient habitat guarantees a significant reduction in pheasant survival. It's not like they have a room at the Pierre Ramkota when the sun goes down.

    It seems Daugaard is seeking an answer outside these simple parameters. The economic incentive to disrupt every square foot of tillable land seems unaffected by his program.

  2. Nick Nemec 2014.09.10

    I think the theory is that the pheasants graze on the dormant winter wheat fields during the winter months. It's a food source. But one reason why there is no crop insurance on winter wheat in many counties is because they don't grow winter wheat there. If corn and beans are more profitable that's what will get planted, insurance or not.

  3. larry kurtz 2014.09.10

    In sustainability news, Montana has just taken steps to protect sage grouse; but because the Anthropocene is melting the polar ice caps forecasters are predicting record snow for the upper Plains so South Dakota pheasant numbers will be erased this winter.

    Kinda sad, really.

  4. mike from iowa 2014.09.10

    Daugaard was elected 4 years ago and finally has a priority?

  5. mike from iowa 2014.09.10

    Pheasants need brushy cover year round to protect them from predators. Late baling of pasture lands helps nesting and survival. Brushy fence rows are good. Evergreens where the birds can roost during blizzards and freezing rain are a big help.Minimum fall tillage helps birds fing waste grain. Eliminating skunks and raccoons helps immensely.

  6. Wayne B. 2014.09.10

    ... or maybe we stop taxing ag ground based upon what it ~could~ produce to what it ~does~ produce...

  7. Wayne B. 2014.09.10

    Woo. Vote me in.

    'Cept I have a 9-5 job so I can't go to Pierre.

  8. Don Carr 2014.09.11

    Good points. There was little hope here once ag interest from both parties joined the group.

    This is the fourth way in recent years taxpayers have been forced to pay for creation/destruction of pheasant habitat. First, when CRP was started. Second, when the corn ethanol subsidy - VEETC - helped spur demand, third through crop insurance subsidies for corn and soy and now fourth a proposed wheat crop insurance subsidy. I’m reminded constantly by the SD GOP and its candidates that South Dakota is a deeply conservative state yet this sounds a lot like a federal welfare hamster wheel to me.

    Since federal taxpayers are footing the bill for 62% of federal crop insurance premiums, this is a Berkley/Boston/Boulder/Austin move if I’ve ever seen one. Crop insurance is Obamacare for corn, and the corn ethanol mandate is, well, a freakin federal government mandate.

    And I'm not much of a GMO alarmist like some of my former enviro colleagues from the safety POV since we grow 'em on our farm, but the language is curious. Stealth move to push for GMO wheat adoption?

    "With advances in seed technology and agronomy practices."

  9. jerry 2014.09.11

    Your correct Mr. Carr, the fun never ends with Daugaard and the rest of his crew in state government. He cannot help it though as he is just a stooge in the agriculture game. There is big money paid by big corporations for Daugaard to come up with the goofy crap he peddles. You never know when the people will rise and kick his ass though. Here is where corporate America has its sights set on now though, us.

    Family farms are being bought up and put under corporate control at an all time high. Why not, these guys can turn 20% profits so each little foot of land is huge to them. Pheasants can be raised in a chicken coop have their wings clipped just in time for the October fest of shooting them on the set. They certainly do not need more ground to take away profits.

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.09.11

    Oh ho! Sharp eye on the possible GMO connection, Don. Does winter wheat just provide cover, or do pheasants eat any of it?

  11. mike from iowa 2014.09.12

    Interesting,informative articles,Mr Carr. One wonders how pheasants managed w/o rice in America since they originally came from China.

    In my part of iowa,pheasants used to be plentiful. Lately,we have been getting heavy rains in May and June to drown out nests. Farmers have taken to baling road ditches for extra hay/income. Now that corn prices have dropped precipitously,we'll see if more land goes fallow or if farmers plow up more to try to make up for lost revenues.

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