Are you a farmer who’s utilizing conservation practices, or are seriously thinking of adopting such practices? Time’s-a-wasting. Farmers across the nation have until Sept. 30 to participate in the first nationwide sign-up for the revamped Conservation Stewardship Program, which will provide real dollars for positive environmental outcomes down on the farm. They can get started by checking out LSP’s new CSP fact sheet. Below is a commentary drafted by farmer-members of LSP’s Federal Farm Policy Committee. These farmers make a good point: CSP is a prime example of the “use it or lose it” school of policy-making. It also has the potential to smooth the way for a new, sustainable attitude toward federal ag programs.
COMMENTARY: CSP — A Step Forward in
Farm Policy & an Opportunity for Farmers
Public interest in our nation’s food and farming system is at a level we haven’t seen in years. To their credit, local citizens have built a movement that reaches coast-to-coast. Authors such as Vandana Shiva, Michael Pollan, and Eric Schlosser, and films such as Food Inc. and Fresh, have further ignited people’s interest in our food and farming system, as well as outlined clear failures in public policy related to agriculture.
Much of that criticism has fallen on public policies heavily shaped by agribusiness corporations of unprecedented size and profitability that prioritize the maximum production of a few favored commodities. This excessive corporate influence in our food and farming system has led us down a path of waste and vulnerability. It has led to wasted tax dollars, environmental degradation and other economic costs like virtual monopolies in the meatpacking industry.
Alternatives to our current food and farm system have been difficult to advance. And while buying local and having an improved understanding of where and who produces the food served on your table is part of the answer, it’s not enough. Federal policy and farm bills continue to dictate what happens on the land and what’s on our dinner plates.
Meaningful reform of U.S. farm policy has been an uphill battle. The new farm bill passed last year falls short in many respects. Yet one bright spot is the revamped and strengthened Conservation Stewardship Program, a building block to a new approach to farm policy.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a voluntary program that rewards farmers and ranchers for managing their active farmland in a way that produces real and measurable conservation outcomes for society – healthy soil, clean water, and wildlife habitat for example. The program is available to all farmers, and all farmlands. By providing support for maintaining and increasing soil and water stewardship on working farmland simply by measuring and providing payments based on positive conservation outcomes, CSP represents a major positive shift in farm policy. It has the potential to affect the long-term sustainability and landscape diversity of our rural communities.
Right now the U.S Department of Agriculture is holding the first ever nationwide Conservation Stewardship Program sign-up for farmers through September 30. Each year USDA plans to enroll nearly 13 million acres of farmland nationwide. For comparison, the largest federal farm conservation program has roughly 32 million acres enrolled. So in just three years the Conservation Stewardship Program will eclipse that program in the number of acres covered.
But just like any new program, passage is one thing and successful implementation and usage is another. If farmers don’t sign-up for the program or if it is delivered in a piecemeal fashion, it is doomed.
As farmers ourselves, we want to encourage farmers across the nation to check out the new Conservation Stewardship Program. While the new conservation program may not work for all farmers, it could work for you. It will provide real dollars for doing what most farmers want to do — be good stewards of the land.
As a new way to support farmers, achieve greater conservation, and bring greater equity to farm programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program is part of the answer to making our food and farming system fairer, more resilient and more accountable.
Land Stewardship Project Federal Farm Policy Committee Members:
Saint Peter, MN
Prairie Farm, WI