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Republican Support Continues To Grow For Conservation Compliance

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Senator John Thune (R-S.D.)

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) is the latest GOP senator to urge to the House-Senate conference committee to re-link the federal crop insurance program to conservation compliance in the farm bill.

Thune sent a letter along with Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Reps. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) to conference committee leaders on Friday (Nov. 15) saying:

 
A broad coalition of production agriculture, hunting and other conservation groups, including many in the crop insurance industry, continues to endorse the reinstatement of crop insurance premium eligibility to conservation compliance. Tying these programs together is good, common-sense policy and will benefit our economy and our land.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)

These members of congress are in good company.

The Senate has voted repeatedly in favor of conservation compliance. This overwhelming bipartisan support includes backing from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) as well as former ag committee chairmen Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Chambliss, a longtime champion of a conservation compliance provision, said to the Senate Agriculture Committee in May that "farmers should comply with conservation if they are going to get assistance from the federal government."

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.)

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, told Bloomberg BNA (subscription required) last year that he has confidence in department's ability to enact conservation compliance policy. "If the USDA implements this in a thoughtful, rational way, it'll be fine." he said.

 

On the House side, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) agreed that:

High land prices, driven by strong demand for our commodities, are boosting farm income and putting significant pressure on our land and water resources, making accountability provisions all the more important. As agricultural policy shifts from a system of direct payments to a system of crop insurance and risk management, conservation compliance must be included in all agricultural income support programs, including crop insurance.

Rep. Fortenberry (R-Neb.)
 

Former chiefs of the USDA Soil Conservation Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service sent a letter this month to the farm bill committee leaders recommending that farmers once again be required to take simple steps to protect soil and water if they are receiving subsidies toward their crop insurance premiums. The signers of that letter include officials from every administration since that of President Reagan, when the conservation compact between taxpayers and farmers was first implemented. The letter states:

When conservation compliance was enacted as part of the 1985 farm bill, it sparked a decade of unprecedented progress in limiting erosion, cleaning up waterways and protecting wetlands. ... Conservation practices not only provide substantial environmental benefits, but also help producers adapt to climate variability and enable them to successfully produce crops under adverse conditions.

Former USDA Deputy Sec. Jim Moseley

Earlier this year, Jim Moseley, former USDA Deputy Secretary during the George W. Bush administration, released a report touting the success of conservation compliance for saving millions of wetland acres while keeping billions of tons of soil on farms, saying:

 
As Congress reauthorizes the farm bill, it is important that the conservation gains made over the last 25 years be retained. Unless included in the ongoing farm bill discussions, there is a possibility that, for the first time in a quarter century, conservation compliance provisions will no longer be attached to the largest federal payment program supporting producers.

Former USDA Secretary Ann Veneman

Former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, Moseley's boss at USDA, wrote a bipartisan letter to House and Senate leaders last year along with President Clinton's Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, urging that conservation practices be relinked to crop insurance:

 
The conservation compact should bring all income support programs under its umbrella, including eligibility for crop and revenue insurance premium subsidies.

There has long been bipartisan support for conservation compliance by farmers and politicians alike. Now more than ever, those leading the way in reauthorizing the farm bill may hear a growing number of prominent Republicans voicing their support to relink to crop insurance the vital conservation compact between taxpayers and farmers.

 

 

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