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Obama and Vilsack Push For Conservation Compliance

Friday, December 6, 2013
President Barack Obama

The Obama Administration is ramping up efforts to link crop insurance subsidies with conservation requirements.

In a report released last month by the White House, the president urged leaders of the Senate-House farm bill conference committee to pass a comprehensive measure that relinks basic land and water protections with the premium subsidies. The report said:

 
Another benefit of crop insurance is the requirement to exercise good farming practices in order to be eligible for coverage. The new Farm Bill presents the opportunity for crop insurance to provide even more environmental benefits by requiring any producer enrolled in the crop insurance program to comply with conservation compliance activities that help protect highly erodible soil and wetlands. Coupling crop insurance with conservation compliance is an opportunity to continue protecting producer’s bottom line while also protecting our natural resources.

This week (Dec. 3), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack reiterated the importance of requiring conservation compliance in the next farm bill, saying:

When you do away with direct payments, you do away with the linkage to conservation compliance. It's important to reinstate the connection to crop insurance, which is what we had before direct payments.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Democrats and Republicans alike agree with the president and agriculture secretary on this point.

Since 1985, common-sense provisions have required farmers who accept federal subsidies to take basic measures to limit soil erosion on their most highly erodible fields and to refrain from draining wetlands. These requirements are still linked to other farm subsidies, but Congress severed the tie between conservation compliance and crop insurance subsidies in 1996.

 

A provision to relink conservation compliance with crop insurance has repeatedly passed in the Senate. And while the House has not voted on restoring compliance this year, many in Congress have spoken up in favor of it. Moreover, a solid majority of farmers has consistently supported this conservation compact with taxpayers.

Reinstating conservation compliance in the farm bill would preserve a generous safety net for farmers while conserving natural resources for generations to come.