Fourth-generation family farmer Kevin Paap, president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, told a congressional panel this week that farmers and ranchers nationwide are employing numerous conservation practices to ensure cleaner, healthier water.

Paap, testifying on behalf of the American Farm Bureau Federation, urged members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to consider the many contributions American agriculture has made to improve the environment before overhauling the proven, successful Clean Water Act.

Paap appeared at a hearing to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, better known as the Clean Water Act. Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.), who convened the hearing, urged his colleagues to approve H.R. 2421, the Clean Water Restoration Act, which contains proposals that would fundamentally alter the reach of the underlying CWA and the existing federal-state relationship. Farm Bureau has urged the chairman to make changes to that legislation.

"It is our nation's good fortune the CWA does not stand alone in protecting America's waters," Paap testified. "Other important programs at the federal, state and local levels have complemented the CWA to provide an effective foundation for water quality protections. The soil conservation and water quality provisions of the last four farm bills have contributed significantly to the goals of the CWA and the nation's overall water quality protection efforts."

Paap emphasized the importance of a healthy environment to farmers and ranchers.

"By the very nature of agriculture, farmers and ranchers have a vital stake in respecting and protecting our nation's waters and streams, both for ourselves and for future generations. We are proud of our record," Paap said.

"Over the last three decades, farmers and ranchers have made great strides in improving our environment," Paap testified. "By nearly every measure, our environment and natural resources are in better condition now than at any other time in over a century."

In addition, Paap urged committee members to appreciate and support the continuation of cost-share and incentive-based conservation programs included in recent farm bills. He cited the Conservation Security Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program as farm bill programs that achieve the goals of the CWA.

Paap is a corn and soybean farmer from Blue Earth County in southern Minnesota.