Washington, DC., May 7, 2013—As both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees prepare to draft a new five-year farm bill, American Farmland Trust (AFT), the U.S. farmland conservation organization, has spearheaded a non-partisan agreement by 32 leading agricultural and conservation policy groups that will re-link crop insurance premium subsidies to compliance while opposing limits to crop insurance.
AFT believes it only makes sense that agriculture and conservation groups work together to ensure conservation compliance is attached to crop insurance in a way that works for farmers and the environment. Conservation compliance also has the support of six former Natural Resources Conservation Service chiefs, who recently sent a letter to the committees urging the re-linking of compliance with crop insurance premium assistance.
“Conservation compliance is a common-sense, reasonable policy that is good for the environment and good for farmers," said Jon Scholl, president of AFT. "AFT is pleased to have helped create a compromise position between agriculture and conservation groups that supports the linking of conservation compliance with crop insurance premium assistance. We oppose any form of means testing, payment limitations or premium subsidy reductions for the crop insurance program."
Scholl said re-linking conservation compliance to crop insurance protects against soil erosion, preserves important wetlands and protects taxpayers’ investments in sound agricultural and conservation policy. Conservation compliance was de-coupled from crop insurance in 1996 and linked to the newly created direct payment program implemented that year.
“Fiscal pressures are a reality of the 2013 Farm Bill discussion, but so are sound conservation programs to ensure long-term economic and environmental benefits in agriculture. Funding for conservation programs that keep farmers on the land and protect valuable natural resources must be maintained in this farm bill,” he added.
AFT also urges Congress to build on a number of priority reforms to conservation programs that had been written into last year’s farm bill. That version of the farm bill, which Congress did not complete, included a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program patterned after the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) and that also included many of the functions of the Wetlands Reserve Program. The new program would have a dual purpose, one to work with state and local partners to provide permanent protection for working agricultural lands and one to provide protection for valuable wetlands.
“AFT also sees great value in the new Regional Conservation Partnership Program proposed last year, which allows conservationists and agricultural producers to work in partnership to address natural resource concerns, such as water quality and water quantity, particularly in critical resource areas,” Scholl said.