Over the past 25 years, one of the least-publicized farmland conservation efforts has actually been one of the most effective, says a new report by former USDA Deputy Secretary and Co-Chair of AGree Jim Moseley. Conservation Compliance: A 25-Year Legacy of Stewardship explains how conservation compliance, which has historically required farmers to implement conservation measures in return for federally funded farm support, helped save millions of wetland acres while keeping billions of tons of soil on farms. As a result, millions of marginal, erosion-prone lands have remained healthy and productive.
“Few conservation programs can boast the success rate of conservation compliance,” said Moseley, who served as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2001 to 2005. “This program has helped farmers save 295 million tons of soil per year and kept an estimated 1.5 million to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands from being drained. The results of this compact between farmers and taxpayers have been astounding.”
The report urges Congress to reattach conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance in the next farm bill reauthorization. As federal farm policy is updated, it is increasingly likely that some commodity programs will be phased out in favor of a strengthened crop insurance program that is becoming the core component of the farm safety net. Therefore, according to Moseley, it seems essential that conservation compliance also be updated to apply to the crop insurance premium assistance.
“As Congress reauthorizes the farm bill, it is important that the conservation gains made over the last 25 years be retained,” said Moseley. "Unless included in the ongoing farm bill discussions, there is a possibility that, for the first time in a quarter century, conservation compliance provisions will no longer be attached to the largest federal payment program supporting producers.”
In addition to highlighting the successes of conservation compliance, the report dispels several myths about conservation compliance and presents key facts about the program, including:
- Conservation compliance is a reasonable expectation in exchange for the significant safety-net benefits the public provides for producers.
- Most producers are already in compliance.
- Re-attaching crop insurance premiums to conservation compliance will lead to minimal administrative burden.
- Conservation compliance includes common-sense protections for farmers.
- Conservation compliance saves money.
Visit http://www.farmbillfacts.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Conservation-Compliance-Legacy.pdf to download the full report.