The Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) is calling its “conservation compliance” proposal to be included in any farm bill a “no-cost” addition; and, therefore, it should not be subject to Congress’ budget Super Committee cutting.

The IWLA organized farm bill listening meetings earlier this year and presented its conservation compliance proposal at each of the meetings throughout the Midwest. Each listening/discussion meeting had different segments of agriculture and non-ag individuals expressing their points of view about the farm bill. Much of the discussion centered around whether agriculture would be treated fairly across crops, organic and conventional production and land conservation programs to protect water and wildlife.    

Brad Redlin, agricultural program director for the IWLA, who organized the farm bill meetings,
directed comments to U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and U.S. Reps. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), who have proposed $23 billion in cuts, representing agriculture’s share of the budget deficit reduction measures.

The lawmakers have pledged to finalize their bi-partisan, bi-cameral recommendations by November 1, noted Redlin. The Super Committee will finalize its recommendations to Congress on November 23, according to the announced timeline.

“It is critical that we not lose this opportunity to conserve farmland and keep our water clean and wildlife abundant for future generations by including no-cost conservation compliance protections in the budget deficit reduction legislation,” said Redlin.

The IWLA is advocating re-establishing conservation compliance measures for federal crop insurance subsidies in the 2012 farm bill to ensure that farmers who receive federal tax dollars protect soil and water resources. Such provision was eliminated from the 1996 farm bill, Redlin reports.

Crop insurance subsidies are the single largest means for providing public money to agriculture, covering more than 250 million acres of land and over 80 percent of commodity crops grown, and that is why IWLA expects some type of farm insurance program to come through the bill and budgeting process.

Requiring conservation measures be followed to receive insurance coverage would require best management practices to avoid soil erosion at even low levels and probably investment by farmers to ensure mitigation when converting wetlands and more, it has been suggested by those leery of supporting the IWLA proposal.

“Conservation compliance can help ensure that where public money is invested, the public’s interests are protected by requiring basic levels of protections for soil, water and wetlands. Compliance provisions require no additional farm bill investment—in fact, they can result in saving federal dollars.” Redlin argues.