Let’s Drink to the Farm Bill!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Farm pollution poses a serious threat to drinking water supplies, and too much federal conservation spending has been squandered. Fortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill includes important reforms that will make clean drinking water a priority.

In particular, the farm bill approved by the House and Senate will reform three programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, the Conservation Stewardship Program, or CSP, and the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP – to encourage farmers to adopt practices that protect drinking water supplies. The bill also expands a program designed to bring groups of farmers together to tackle drinking water pollution.

For example, the final farm bill will increase EQIP payments when farmers elect to adopt one of the 10 best practices for reducing farm pollution, as determined by state experts. Another reform will make it a priority to enroll farmers into the CRP when they propose to protect drinking water supplies. Farmers participating in CSP can get more funding if they choose to plant cover crops after the harvest. Overall, more than a dozen clean water reforms included in the final farm bill will encourage more farmers to plant cover crops, restore riverside buffers and trees, and use fertilizer with greater care.

We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought these reforms would be enough to tackle the farm pollution problem facing rural America. But the 2018 Farm Bill is an important step in the right direction and may long be remembered as the “Drinking Water” farm bill. As we noted yesterday, Sens. Debbie Stabenow, Sherrod Brown, Bob Casey, Tom Carper and others played critical roles in what may prove to be the biggest environmental victory of the 115th Congress.

So let’s drink to the farm bill!


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