A Deep Connection: Upland Habitat and Grain Production Fit Hand-In-Hand

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever recently partnered with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program to offer conservation cost-share opportunities for sorghum producers in western Kansas.

Article Compiled by NSP and USCP Staff

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever recently partnered with the United Sorghum Checkoff Program to offer conservation cost-share opportunities for sorghum producers in western Kansas. The new sustainability initiative—Sorghum for BIRDS (Building Innovative, Resilient, and Diverse agricultural Systems)—targets low performing acres by offering growers a one-time incentive payment to apply targeted conservation practices in tandem with sorghum production.

Committed to showcasing the nexus between upland bird habitats and sorghum production, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever and the Sorghum Checkoff launched the Sorghum for BIRDS initiative over a 15-county region in Kansas to help achieve mutual goals for landscape-level sustainability and profitability in the heart of America’s Sorghum Belt. Paired with a wide variety of targeted conservation practices, the program is designed to provide increased technical support for sorghum growers to enhance upland bird habitat while improving farm-level profitability and sustainability outcomes.

“Sorghum has such an important role to play in sustainable farming systems, especially on the High Plains,” Sorghum Checkoff Sustainability Director Kira Everhart-Valentin said. “Its resource-conserving nature makes it a key contributor to healthy soils and the protection of precious water sources, while its wildlife-friendly characteristics help to support diverse ecosystems. Sorghum i

s good for birds and good for farms, and we’re very excited about this opportunity for growers to bring more value to their operations.”

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever hired Brittany Smith as a precision ag and conservation specialist in June to work one-on-one with growers to help them identify strategic opportunities for the implementation of conservation practices in a way that contributes to the farm’s environmental sustainability, while also improving the operation’s profitability and bottom line.

“Sustainability begins with profitability, which is why our new initiative is groundbreaking for western Kansas. Sorghum for BIRDS is an incredibly exciting opportunity to reach new growers and help connect them to cost-share programs they may not otherwise be aware of,” Smith said. “My role is to help producers identify conservation options that address profitability and sustainability throughout the entire farm. Working one-on-one with growers, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever will help implement innovative solutions from start to finish.”

Conservation Programs that Pay

Beyond the Sorghum for BIRDS initiative, the conservation partnership with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever offers National Sorghum Producers members additional opportunities, as well. Sorghum farmers can receive free conservation planning services for acres currently not enrolled in sorghum production through Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s regional biologists. This is achieved through existing conservation programs authorized through the farm bill.

Pivot corners, buffers and other hard-to-farm areas can help producers achieve sustainability outcomes for wildlife, water resources and soil conservation while contributing to bottom-line profitability across the farm. These free, on-farm acreage analyses can be performed by contacting a Pheasants Forever or Quail Forever Conservation Operations team member.

Sorghum For Birds Initiative Guidelines 

Financial Incentives

  • Whole-field practices: $5/acre (soil health crop rotations including sorghum, soil health assessment, reduced tillage, etc.)
  • Cover crops: $15/acre
  • Edge-of-field practices: $25/acre (perennial cover such as field borders, filter strips, playa buffers, pivot corners, etc.)

Up to $1,000 for the adoption of advanced irrigation water management technology. Sorghum for BIRDS payments will be offered IN ADDITION to any conservation program payments received.

Project Area

Sorghum for BIRDS is open to all irrigated and dryland acres on which sorghum is actively included in the crop rotation within the following Kansas counties: Rooks, Osborne, Trego, Ellis, Russell, Scott, Lane, Ness, Rush, Barton, Finney, Hodgeman, Pawnee, Gray, and Ford. Applications from outside the project area will be approved on a case by-case basis.


  • Sorghum must be included in the rotation on the acres enrolled.
  • Field-level profitability analysis (precision data is not required to complete this analysis) to identify conservation opportunities.
  • Implementation of a new conservation practice on the field enrolled.
  • Growers must allow ongoing monitoring and data collection from the enrolled field(s) for 3 years. Data will only be collected from enrolled fields and will not be shared publicly.

For more information about applying for Sorghum for BIRDS or enrollment opportunities, visit https:// pheasantsforever.org/kansasbirds or contact Brittany Smith, Kansas Precision Ag & Conservation Specialist, by email at bsmith@pheasantsforever.org or by phone at 316-302-4467.

To learn more about the partnership between Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program, watch the partnership video on YouTube or contact Kira Everhart-Valentin, Sustainability Director for USCP, at kira@sorghuumcheckoff.com or (620) 874-8195.


This story originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.