Promoting Sound Farming Practices
“It is very important that farmers and ranchers continue to do the things that make them the best stewards of our land and water resources. By reconnecting conservation compliance to our now-strengthened crop insurance program, we protect the future of agriculture.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
“Reinstating conservation compliance is critical to protect the future integrity of crop insurance and production agriculture, water quality, wildlife habitat and the sustainability of agriculture for future generations of farmers”
Senator John Thune, R-S.D.
American Farmland Trust was at the center of negotiations that crafted an agreement to include conservation compliance requirements for federal crop insurance premium assistance. Because of strong Congressional champions like Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, conservation compliance was included in the final Farm Bill agreement with bi-partisan support.
This single provision will yield tremendous benefits on the landscape. Conservation compliance is a provision that has produced results over its 25-year history, and going forward it will ensure safeguards remain in place for wetlands and highly erodible soil across the country.
Specifically, this provision will protect the landscape by:
• Requiring farmers who receive crop insurance premium assistance to have a conservation plan.
• Providing ability for damaged wetlands to be restored or mitigated.
• Ensuring that farmers have full ability to appeal violations before losing crop insurance benefits.
As former USDA Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley reported in February 2013, “Because conservation treatments have been applied to over 140 million acres, farmers have saved 295 million tons of soil per year—soil that has been held in place and kept from entering our rivers, lakes, and streams. Further, an estimated 1.5 million to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands have not been drained as a result of compliance.”
Going forward, requiring conservation compliance for crop insurance premium assistance will provide a stable farm and natural resource safety net that works for farmers while protecting the environment.
American Farmland Trust also worked to target conservation resources for greater impact at the local level in an exciting, new approach through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). RCPP merges together existing program authority under the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Program, the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program, the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative, and the Great Lakes Basin Program in order to focus conservation assistance to significant resource problem areas.
The Farm Bill provides $1 billion for RCPP and will leverage existing national, state, and regional partnerships to provide additional funding and technical assistance in delivering focused conservation. Through a competitive process at the national, state and regional level, partners will submit project applications for partnership agreements with USDA. The program will help further conservation, restoration and sustainable use of natural resources and will help farmers in meeting or avoiding the need for regulation.
Other conservation program provisions contained in the 2014 Farm Bill include:
• Sodsaver provision to reduce grassland conversion in the prairie pothole region-- providing additional safeguards for fragile lands.
• Reauthorization for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at $8 billion to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns like improving soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources.
• Provides for 10 million acres per year to be enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) which encourages producers to address natural resource concerns in a comprehensive manner.
• Allows for 24 million acres to be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) which removes environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production to improve environmental health and quality.
• Voluntary Access Program (VAP) is reauthorized at $40 million per year. VAP encourages private landowners to voluntarily make their land available to the public for wildlife recreation.
• Agricultural Management Assistance is reauthorized at $10 million per year to provide farmers financial and technical assistance to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control.
• Regional Equity is preserved in the bill to ensure fair availability of conservation funding across states.
We couldn't do this work without the financial support of our community. Please consider making a donation to support AFT's efforts.