The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee recently approved its version of the 2012 Farm Bill. In today's partisan climate where everything seems to turn into a political issue, the committee deserves high accolades for its swift, bipartisan passage of a common-sense plan that protects American agriculture, while at the same time reducing our nation's debt by an estimated $23 billion. |
And while the Commodity Title gets most of the attention in the news, I would argue that the Conservation Title is just as important, if not more important, to the future of America. After all, if we don't protect and preserve our nation's natural resources, we won't have any land on which to farm in the future.
Whether you're involved in agriculture or not, this is something that matters to all of us -- the benefits of a strong Conservation Title benefit everyone. After all, we all eat, and we all need clean air and water. And with the world's population on the rise, the sustainability of our food supply has never been more critical.
The Senate bill includes a strong Conservation Title that streamlines and consolidates programs for increased efficiency and ease-of-use for producers, while maintaining critical funding for valuable technical assistance helping provide adequate boots on the ground to implement conservation where it counts.
While the bill would cut $6 billion in conservation program funding, I fully understand that all of us, in every sector of the economy, must be prepared to make sacrifices in the current economic climate. However, additional cuts could put the viability of these programs at risk.
Producers in Illinois and all across the country are already faced with the challenge of doing more with less, and conservation is a tool that is available to every producer. Henry County producers utilize multiple farm bill funding programs.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is an excellent option for confined and grazing livestock operations to implement practices. EQIP also offers assistance for timber management and to install typical conservation practices such as grass waterways and structures.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) offers a yearly stewardship payment to conservation minded producers who have made conservation a part of their operation over the years. Other farm bill programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) offer financial assistance to create or improve habitat.
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) provide a yearly income to remove sensitive land from row-crop production and restore it to its natural habitat. Not only do farm bill conservation programs play a key role in supporting clean air, clean water and productive soils, they also help producers implement conservation practices through voluntary, incentive-based methods -- rather than through a top-down regulatory approach -- as well as support our nation's long-term economic and food security.
I think everyone would agree it's better to make a long-term investment in our natural resources today, than to be forced to pay escalated costs for repair in the future.
It's time for Congress to take action and passes a farm bill before it's too late.
Jerry Snodgrass of Geneseo is chairman of the Henry County Soil & Water Conservation District.
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