Saving a Critical conservation program
Rising crop prices, floods and drought put a spotlight on the Conservation Reserve Program, our nation's largest and most successful program for the stewardship of sensitive lands. Heavy pressure to allow potentially millions of acres back into production was denied in a commendable decision made by USDA Secretary Ed Schafer. Requests for early release of land from the program were declined unless payments made to protect the environmentally fragile acres are paid back.
Realizing the Promise of the 2008 Farm Bill
Passing the farm bill is just half the battle. The legislation lays out what ought to happen, but turning the promises into reality still lies ahead. Without leadership and action during this next critical phase of the farm bill, we risk losing the gains we’ve made.
Enactment now falls to the U.S. Department of Agriculture who will issue draft rules and seek public comment. Enrollment for some farm bill programs is beginning to open, but by and large we're waiting to see the draft rules later this summer.
Developing the Rules to Implement the Bill
In spite of hundreds of pages of text, the bill leaves out most of the critical details on how to implement the programs and policies. The rules must be written in a way that farmers and ranchers find accessible and easy to use. Otherwise, the hard-fought gains in reform, conservation and other areas will not be realized. Poorly written rules can actually thwart the will of Congress and undermine the legislation.
Securing the Funding for the Programs
While the 2008 Farm Bill provides some mandatory funding, many of the programs require annual appropriations from Congress. As we saw with the conservation programs over the life of the 2002 Farm Bill, and highlighted in the graph below, Congress often cuts critically important programs during the appropriation process.