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Farmland Conservation Matters in the 2018 Farm Bill

Oct. 25, 2018

Farmland Conservation Matters in the 2018 Farm Bill

by Christine Dzujna with Ed Yowell

Farmland conservation is central to the “clean” part of Slow Food’s mission to change the world through food that is good, clean, and fair for all.  Unfortunately, urban sprawl continues to reduce the amount of land available for healthy food production and can lead to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions.  Unsustainable farming practices continue to degrade our soil, water, and air resources. Both of these practices abet climate change, altering growing seasons and increasing risk of severe droughts, damaging storms, and devastating floods.

Fortunately, through U.S. Farm Bill conservation programs, farmers can partner with the USDA to conserve farmland and implement strategies that sustain our natural land and water resources, which can yield both high farm productivity and positive environmental outcomes.  Healthy soil more effectively sequesters carbon dioxide from the air and in turn supports healthier crop production. Supporting good, clean, and fair food for all means supporting farm conservation. Here’s why:

The Fed’s Role in Conservation

Federal Farm Bill conservation policy and programs help farmers, and the planet by conducting research on the importance of farmland protection and the benefits of good agricultural practices, and providing important financial and technical assistance to farmers preserving agricultural lands. Key federal conservation programs include:

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): helps farmers develop and cover the costs of conservation plans to tackle weather, pest, and other production challenges in ways that conserve natural resources (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/)
  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): helps farmers remove degraded farmland from production, returning it to a healthy and productive state. (https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/)
  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): works with farmers to devise management plans to conserve and improve farm and forest lands. (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/csp/)
  • Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP): helps conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and limits non-agricultural land use through financial and technical assistance to American Indian tribes, state and local governments, and NGOs. (https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/easements/acep/)
Conservation in the 2018 Farm Bill

Conservation has become a major sticking point in the 2018 Congressional Farm Bill negotiations - there are significant differences between the Senate and House versions of the bill. In the Senate version, CSP and EQIP are left largely intact and improvements are added that would give farmers greater access to assistance and increase environmental benefits. However, the House version would damage both programs. The House has proposed that CSP be eliminated and that certain of its functions be merged into EQIP.  This would be a mistake, as some of the key components in CSP would be cut and much of current CSP funding would be lost. These changes and funding cuts would hurt farmers’ efforts to promote agricultural sustainability. In fact, the elimination of the CSP working lands conservation program would leave the U.S. with no comprehensive program to preserve and enhance our country’s productive working lands, including more than 70 million acres of agricultural and forest land.

Take Action Two Ways

The Slow Food USA Food for Change Campaign highlights the importance of combating climate change through our personal actions, including our food choices. The campaign demonstrates the importance of voting with our forks.  We encourage you to join the campaign’s EcoChallenge (https://2018.ecochallenge.org/users/join ) and pledge to do your part to support efforts combatting climate change.

Slow Food USA is keeping a close eye on the Farm Bill because voting with our voices is equally important.  We encourage you to send our Farm Bill conservation message to your Senators and House Representative telling them that we want a good, clean, and fair Farm Bill that includes full support for farm conservation.  The best way to do this is to get out there and connect directly with your Senators and Representative, who are home for the midterm elections! Call them, attend Town Hall gatherings, go where they are and raise your concerns. The message below will help.   You also can use the sample message to e-mail them. It’s easy.

You can find your Senators at https://www.senate.gov/senators/contact
and your Representative at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.
Then, just click on your Senators’ and Representative's contact pages and cut, paste, customize, and send the message below!

Honorable <Senator’s or Representative’s Name>

Re: 2018 Farm Bill Conservation Programs

Dear <Senator or Representative <Last Name>,

I write regarding the 2018 Farm Bill. I am a constituent and a supporter of Slow Food USA, the national, nonprofit organization dedicated to a food chain that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All. Slow Food USA has more than 150 local chapters nationwide and more than 750,000 followers across digital social media platforms. We believe that everyone has the right to enjoy ample, sustainably and humanely produced food that is good for human health and well-being, for our planet, and for those who work to put food on our tables.

We believe that farmland conservation programs are critical to the support of family farms, rural communities, and a sustainable food system. They are also a key tool in helping reverse the effects of climate change. I am disappointed that the 2014 Farm Bill expired without an extension in place. Given its immense importance, especially in this time of great challenges to American agriculture, it is imperative that Congress completes a good, clean, and fair bill by the end of this year, one that includes full support and funding for conservation programs: EQIP, CRP, CSP, and ACEP.

Sincerely,  

[Your Name]

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