Farmers fear we could be on the verge of another dust bowl, if swift action is not taken on expiring conservation reserve program land.
The CRP program has been paying farmers to keep their land covered in grass for more than fifty years... The program is aimed at stopping disasters just like the Dust Bowl. Lorence Enyart was in his early teens during what's known as the Dirty Thirties "I used to have to go in the house and sit with a wash rag over my nose to keep from breathing that."
Some fear history could repeat itself if farmers are no longer required to leave their CRP land untouched. Ken Cearney with Texas AgriLife Extension says, "the reserve program has contributed to controlling a lot of erosion, wind erosion. In other words dust in the air."
Without that environmental protection, farmers are free to plow the land, which means it could become highly erodible soil, susceptible to the Panhandle's high winds.
Farmers do have several other options, but many say they're frustrated with those choices, and would much rather remain under CRP. People like Velda Harren, whose CRP land in Randall County expires in September. "I don't know what we're going to do. There a tremendous amount of expense. Water tanks to be developed. Fences to be put in."
It is getting harder and harder to qualify for CRP renewals. The government is cutting the CRP allotment by several million acres, and the standards are now higher than ever.
Juan Garcia is the Acting State Director for Texas Wildlife Organization. He says, "one of the criteria is that they have to have an erodibility index of greater than 15, which is a very highly erodable soil."
Less than half of the land in Texas Panhandle meets those standards.