|July 31, 2008
The Honorable Ed Schafer
Secretary of Agriculture
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Schafer:
We strongly commend you for your decision to reject proposals to allow the penalty free early release of land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP is the nation’s largest and most successful agricultural conservation program having dramatically reduced soil erosion and increased wildlife habitat by rewarding farmers who take fragile land out of production and restore it to grassland or other cover.
Early release of even a modest number of acres from CRP would waste the money American taxpayers have invested in restoring those lands to grassland or other cover and would eliminate the benefits to soil, water, wildlife and the public that the lands provide. A penalty-free early release of the magnitude some were proposing—millions of acres—would deliver a devastating blow to the nation’s soil, water, and wildlife habitat, and increase global warming.
The Conservation Reserve Program reduces soil erosion, protects the nation's ability to produce food and fiber, reduces sedimentation in streams and lakes, improves water quality, establishes wildlife habitat, and enhances forest and wetland resources. CRP encourages farmers to convert highly erodible cropland or other environmentally sensitive acreage to vegetative cover, such as grass waterways, native grasses, wildlife plantings, trees, filter strips and riparian buffers. Farmers receive an annual rental payment for the term of the contract. Cost sharing is provided to establish the vegetative cover practices. Since its creation in 1985, CRP has been responsible for reducing hundreds of millions of tons of erosion each year, reducing pollution in our nation’s waterways.
We look forward to continuing to work with you and your staff at USDA to find solutions to environmental issues that achieve environmental outcomes while maintaining an economically sustainable agricultural sector. We believe there are enormous opportunities for farmers and ranchers to play a major role in improving water quality, reducing greenhouse gases and expanding wildlife habitat while also expanding their sources of revenue.
American Farmland Trust
American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT’s national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.