Delinking conservation requirements and safety net payments is getting attention again as Congressional lawmakers start writing the next farm bill. Senate Ag member Mike Braun of Indiana says conditions are tough enough today, not to have more limits on farming.
Braun; “I’ve never seen a business where, when revenues go up, just mysteriously, inputs seem to go right up, with them.”
All the more reason, Braun argues, farmers don’t want climate and conservation practices required to get farm payments. Braun; “They want to make sure that they’re never going to have the safety net program that they depend on, which is a small part of the money that we spend on the farm bill, tied directly to having to be forced into conservation practices, which they do voluntarily.”
USDA Farm Production and Conservation Undersecretary Robert Bonnie responded at a recent Senate farm bill hearing. Bonnie; “Our approach to climate and conservation, more broadly, is going to be voluntary, incentive-based, and collaborative. We look for opportunities to work with producers. That’s going to cut across everything we do. We think, if it doesn’t work for agriculture and forestry, it’s not going to work for the environment.”
But Bonnie quickly added; “We obviously have compliance in crop insurance and FSA programs, and we think that’s a good approach. But beyond that, our approach on these issues is going to be one that’s about voluntary stewardship.”
Conservation plans have been required for highly erodible soil, along with a ban on planting converted wetlands, while efforts to force enrollment in conservation programs to receive farm payments have not been successful.