By: Dr. Barbara P. Glenn, Chief Executive Officer
We know the farm bill helps farmers and ranchers protect their bottom line and continue providing food. Not only does the Farm Bill help farmers with their crops, it helps them improve their land. The Conservation Title of the program is essential in helping farmers improve their farm, their surrounding watershed, and their local ecosystem. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical assistance, funding and voluntary programs to improve soil health, build resiliency and target the specific conservation needs of individual areas.
One of many examples of how NASDA members partner with NRCS to support voluntary conservation is from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). MDARD has partnered with Indiana organizations to work on the St. Joseph River watershed through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to the tune of $6.8 million. This grant provides resources to increase Best Management Practice (BMP) implementation centered on nutrient management, as well as irrigation water management. The funding has helped producers implement 165 practices like applying cover crop, improving irrigation water management, nutrient management planning, prescribed grazing, and tillage management.
The next Farm Bill should continue the successful model of locally lead, voluntary, incentive-based conservation that assists producers in addressing natural resource concerns while improving their operations. This approach allows farmers and ranchers to tailor conservation programs to their specific needs and helps counter the need for regulatory action.
Every dollar invested in NRCS working lands programs leads to on the ground results, whether through technical assistance, practice implementation or programmatic support. State departments of agriculture, conservation and commodity groups as well as private dollars also bring additional funding to make improvements. The Conservation Title of the Farm Bill (Title II) took a 10 percent funding cut in the 2014 Farm Bill. These dollars support the important work of working lands programs like RCPP and the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP). Funding needs to be increased, or at minimum maintained, for these important programs.
This is part of an eight-week series. Please be sure to follow us next week as we take a look at how the Farm Bill provides research, marketing, and nutrition education tools to fruit, vegetable, and tree nut producers – referred to as specialty crops by our federal partners.
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