American Farmland Trust, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Wildlife Federation Held Briefing for Legislators on Crucial Conservation Measures to Protect Highly Erodible Land and Wetlands
Washington, D.C., July 20, 2012— Three U.S. agriculture leaders held a briefing for Congress on Capitol Hill today to support attaching conservation compliance to crop and income insurance in the farm bill — a measure that would save taxpayer money, protect against soil erosion and conserve natural resources.
Conservation compliance, which is not tied to the crop or income insurance premium subsidies American farmers enjoy, restricts participation by farmers on highly erodible land in any other farm payment programs unless the farmer agrees to maintain soil loss below a basic, good stewardship level.
Key Comments from Jon Scholl, President American Farmland Trust
- Conservation compliance is a highly effective tool in protecting soil and wetlands. The USDA Economic Research Service reports that in the past 25 years, conservation compliance has reduced annual erosion on our most vulnerable soils by 40 percent. Conservation compliance has also been a major factor in achieving the goal of no-net-loss of wetlands on farms.
- We are at risk of effectively losing compliance. Since compliance was removed from crop insurance in 1996, making crop insurance the centerpiece of the safety net will reduce the incentive for farmers to continue following their conservation plans — putting soil and wetlands in jeopardy. This must not happen.
- Conservation compliance should be integral to the new farm safety net, no matter how it’s configured. Since 1985, compliance has been a successful part of farm policy, helping to justify spending taxpayer dollars on commodity programs and giving farmers an incentive to protect the long-term productive capacity of our land. As crop insurance becomes the focal point of the future safety net, we need to assure that it carries the same responsibility farmers have become accustomed to with farm programs of the past.
- We believe compliance represents a covenant between farmers and society. It is reasonable for society to demand a basic level of stewardship to be applied in exchange for programs that help provide some measure of economic stability on the farm.
- The good news is that if we make this change today, we will spare farmers from difficult changes. They will not face new administrative headaches. They would still be able to purchase their crop insurance, get their bank loans, farm their land and receive crop insurance indemnities.
- The crop insurance industry also won’t face major new headaches. With better than 80 percent participation and a significant reinvestment in the coming farm bill, crop insurance enrollments will not be in jeopardy.
- A final, important consideration is the impact on the federal budget. Since the enforcement system would stay the same and the universe of farmers would grow by one or two percent at most, any new budget outlays would be marginal. Just as it has always been, compliance would remain an exceptionally low budget outlay alternative. Its costs, most of them already sunk, generate far and away the biggest soil savings bang for the buck.
Scholl’s remarks were followed by comments from Varel Bailey, an Iowa farmer and former President of the National Corn Growers Association, and Ray McCormick, an Indiana farmer and President of the Indiana Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts. Both of these working farmers support tying insurance subsidies to the minimum standards of soil conservation required by conservation compliance.
American Farmland Trust, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Wildlife Federation sponsored today’s briefing.