Unless the conference committee that will soon negotiate the 2018 Farm Bill acts decisively, the largest, most effective program for conservation agriculture could be gutted entirely. At risk is the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which rewards farmers and ranchers for using practices that enhance the sustainability of agricultural landscapes. To earn these green payments, farmers take a whole-farm approach to conservation and adopt ecologically sound practices.
Farmers have flocked to take advantage of this common-sense approach since CSP began in 2002. Across the nation, over 46,000 producers and 70 million acres are enrolled. Through CSP, producers can better take care of the soil, develop wildlife and pollinator habitat, improve crop rotations, enhance grazing management, reduce pollution, and more.
During recent interviews in Montana, producers told us CSP is an important part of their overall farm planning. Similar to other Farm Bill programs, producers identified challenges like the lack of farmer involvement in program development and not enough flexibility in implementation. Even so, producers stressed to us that CSP funding provides real benefits to their land and communities.
The 2018 Farm Bill must include CSP so producers can steward our agricultural heritage for future generations. Both the House and Senate passed their versions of the Farm Bill through their respective chambers in June 2018. Shockingly, the House bill eliminates CSP entirely. While there is room for improvement, jettisoning the program altogether is ridiculously short-sighted. The Senate Bill, thankfully, takes a better approach, maintaining consistent funding in the conservation title as a whole and retaining CSP. It does, however, still cut funding to CSP.
Now the two chambers have to come together in a conference committee to reconcile these wildly different bills. We need to let our members of Congress know just how important CSP is to our working lands. Join us in calling for a Farm Bill that does not gut our critical conservation programs. Our country’s food system, agricultural economy, and natural heritage are on the line.
Wild Farm Alliance works to promote a healthy, viable agriculture that protects and restores wild nature. Visit www.WildFarmAlliance.org to learn more.
Neva Hassanein, Ph.D.
Wild Farm Alliance