“Our nation faces challenges which will intensify the pressure on our farmland, including the need to double agricultural production in the coming years to meet the needs of a global population growing to as many as 10 billion people” saysJon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “It’s imperative to recognize that a strong commitment to conservation programs is critical to our nation’s security.” 

Scholl shared his thoughts following a press conference on the unfolding 2012 Farm Bill, along with AFT’s initial policy recommendations in three areas:  conservation and farmland protection, the farm safety net and rural development. In addition, AFT launched a special website, www.farmbillfacts.org, to serve as a key information source for those wanting to follow the progress of farm policy for the duration of the legislative process.

“This process has been extremely unique in terms of how the farm bill is being crafted, but the results can be transformational,” Scholl says. “Our congressional agriculture leaders face very hard decisions in this budget climate that really are about the nature of government and how it will spend our money—and the best means to craft a partnership of the government and farmers and ranchers in stewarding this key natural resource.”

Scholl believes decisions about conservation and Title I of the farm bill could establish structures to address both short-term and long-term effectiveness of agriculture to meet national challenges. “It’s clear we have to get the most bang for our conservation buck. We must strengthen conservation programs in the most efficient manner possible.”

To that end, Scholl unveiled position papers supported by AFT, which is one of the nation’s strongest advocates for conservation programs and ag sustainability. The position papers are:

Scholl also noted that AFT provided an independent side-by-side analysis of 10 farm bill proposals related to the farm safety net. “We believe there are four principles that a safety net must meet in order to be effective: it must move with the markets and be revenue-based; it must complement crop insurance but not duplicate the coverage; for accountability farmers must suffer a loss to receive a payment; and, it must minimize distortions—including the unintended environmental consequences that can arise when producers are influenced by government payments rather than market forces,” Scholl said.

“Like many in Washington we do not know whether the Super Committee on Deficit Reduction will include the farm bill in its recommendations, the level of cuts they are considering, or, when the details may become known,” says Scholl. “You have to maintain a level of confidence, though that the leadership of the Agriculture Committees are seasoned in farm policy and recognize the critical nature of investing in conservation. We will do all we can do is inform the process and encourage people to elevate these key issues to a place of greater prominence. It’s about our collective future.”