A coalition of South Dakota groups is backing an effort to tie federal crop insurance support to conservation compliance.
The groups are South Dakota Farmers Union, South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, South Dakota Grasslands Coalition, South Dakota Izaak Walton League, South Dakota Wildlife Federation, South Dakota Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Pheasants Forever, Delta Waterfowl and Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
The groups met recently at the Izaak Walton League's building in Sioux Falls to discuss tying conservation compliance to federal crop insurance support.
"One of the largest benefits of conservation compliance for farmers and ranchers today, and for future generations of producers, is the reduction in soil erosion," said South Dakota Farmers Union President Doug Sombke, in a statement supplied by SDFU. "We need to make sure we're being good stewards of the land, and conservation practices help us pass along our property to future producers who can be successful because of what we have done today."
Sombke, who farms in Brown County, said landowners today have a responsibility to the next generation of producers to protect the land, the water and the wildlife.
"As a farmer, I need to be accountable to the taxpayer," Sombke said. "Producers need a strong safety net like federal crop insurance to make sure they can stay in business if disaster strikes. But we also need to be accountable and make sure we're taking care of our land."
Most producers are already following conservation plans and are in compliance with conservation standards because many are subject to conservation compliance through farm bill Title I programs. Most estimates reveal that approximately 93 percent of all producers are already in compliance. In 2009, only about 2 percent of corn and soybean production and 5 percent of wheat production was covered by crop insurance but out of conservation compliance.
Soil erosion has dropped dramatically over the last several decades. Between 1982 and 2007, farmers reduced total cropland soil erosion by 43 percent, much of which occurred after the 1985 farm bill was passed by Congress implementing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and conservation compliance requirements.
"This is a big issue in South Dakota," Sombke said. "We have a pretty significant amount of highly-erodible land, and we need to make sure we protect it."