Native grasslands are being cultivated into cropland faster than at any time since before the Great Depression, according to the Center for Rural Affairs. Between 2011 and 2012—the most recent years data is available—nearly 400,000 acres of US grassland was converted to cropland. Nebraska topped the list of US states with more than 85 square miles of land being converted from native prairie to farmland in that single year.
The main reason for the lack of land conservation is financial. There’s money to be made for landowners who want to convert their grasslands to cropland. But some landowners don’t know that there are also financial incentives for them to “keep the grass grass-side up.”
The United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service pays landowners to improve the condition of their grasslands, including the quality of the soil, water, air, habitat, and energy.