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Balancing Food, Farm, and Environment Act of 2013

Balancing Food, Farm, and Environment Act of 2013

Congressman Earl Blumenauer  ■ Third District of Oregon  ■

Read the bill here.

The Farm Bill’s conservation title was intended to reward farmers financially for taking actions that protected the environment and benefited the general public. Those goals have remained incredibly popular. Polls show that farmers and urban Americans alike understand the importance of conservation and believe that the conservation title’s role in the Farm Bill should be maintained or increased. Conservation programs are so popular, the USDA reports that conservation programs have an average of four times more applications than availability. Nationally, more than fifteen states receive more in conservation payments than from any other title, excepting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Unfortunately, the conservation title we designed in the 1980s no longer addresses America’s most important priorities, is difficult for farmers to navigate, and forces a one-size-fits-all policy on a varied landscape. The Balancing Food, Farm, and Environment Act (the Balancing Act) updates the Farm Bill’s conservation title to reflect the needs of a changing agricultural system and a new set of federal government priorities. It streamlines twenty-three conservation programs into eleven, and prioritizes long-term results to protect the taxpayers’ investment. The Balancing Act encourages local and regional partnerships to tackle local conservation needs, and allows them to implement performance-based standards, rather than process-based standards. It provides support and technical assistance to farmers facing modern-day challenges, including food safety concerns, water quality and quantity issues, and a public interested in more sustainable farming practices. The legislation also prioritizes investment for our most pressing conservation issues, including helping farmers address a changing climate, transitioning off of antibiotic-intensive practices, and reducing pesticide use.

The Balancing Act acknowledges our current budget environment by focusing federal dollars where they have the most impact, encouraging local and private investment, and limiting the amount of payments that can go to any one producer.

Farming in the 21st century, including the environmental challenges farmers face, deserves a new conservation title. We can support our farmers and reduce the bureaucratic red tape necessary to apply to conservation programs, while targeting federal dollars to ensure better results. We can achieve better conservation outcomes that keep our water clean, our soil healthy, and help our wildlife thrive, while ensuring that people have access to affordable responsibly-raised food. The Balancing Act lays the groundwork for a conservation title that works for farmers, works for taxpayers, and works for all Americans who depend on a safe, healthy, domestic food supply.