“Today’s Senate Agriculture Committee hearing confirmed something America’s farmers have known for a long time: you can’t go wrong with conservation programs,” says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “The panelists gave a strong defense of the conservation programs that we have in place today and also provided thoughtful suggestions for how to make the programs even more efficient, effective and focused in the future.”
“Several themes stood out during the hearing,” says Scholl. “One is how valuable conservation programs are to farmers, especially those focused on working lands. The farmers who spoke about their own conservation efforts gave us a firsthand look at conservation’s crucial role in helping meet rapidly increasing demand while maintaining healthy soils, water and air.”
In addition, many of the panelists noted that conservation programs can drive economic growth on multiple levels:
- Farmers can achieve greater long-term productivity through working lands practices such as no-till production or nutrient management efforts.
- Permanent protection of key farmland through the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program can ensure that rural businesses—such as cherry processors in western Michigan—have the production base that they need to thrive.
- Hunting, fishing and other recreational activities created by wildlife conservation programs generate over $1 trillion in economic activity every year, according to the National Fish and Wildlife Federation.
In light of these economic benefits, the unintended consequences of proposed cuts to conservation are particularly troubling. “Panelist Carl Mattson, a farmer from Montana offered some very wise input to the committee,” Scholl adds. “He said that current levels of spending on conservation may not be enough and reminded us that investment in conservation today is ‘insurance’ to help steward our natural resources for the future, when our agricultural capacity must increase.”
“I am delighted to see the Senate moving forward with farm bill hearings,” says Scholl. “Finalizing the 2012 Farm Bill this spring should be ‘job number one’ because a temporary extension of current policy merely creates needless uncertainty and greater fiscal challenges in the future. We need to move forward with strong conservation programs and policies that better serve farmers, consumers and our environment”