This year, passage of a long-term, comprehensive Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is critical to providing certainty for U.S. producers. This includes the continued availability of conservation programs that give our farmers, ranchers and private foresters the means to conserve the soil, protect our water and sustain America’s natural resources.
Thanks to programs provided by the Farm Bill, USDA has been able to enroll a record number of private lands in conservation practices. Over the past four years, we have worked with more than 500,000 producers, landowners and private foresters on projects that help the environment, while providing a new source of income.
From May 20 to June 14, USDA is holding the 45th General Signup under the Conservation Reserve Program – another important effort provided by a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill.
The program saves hundreds of millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous from flowing into water sources. It provides valuable wildlife habitat, and hunting opportunities that help rural communities generate economic benefits from outdoor recreation. In times of severe drought, conservation lands can provide additional forage land for ranchers.
Such programs also provide the base from which USDA is expanding new opportunities in conservation and outdoor recreation. – an important cornerstone of President Obama’s plan to revitalize the rural economy.
At USDA, we are taking a wide variety of steps to help achieve this goal. Today we’re developing new ways for producers to earn income through conservation measures. We’re undertaking new efforts to help communities create jobs through outdoor recreation. And we are expanding new partnerships between the government and landowners, to ensure that land stewardship is recognized and rewarded.
A robust Conservation Title in a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill impacts all of these efforts.
While Congress extended the Farm Bill conservation programs in January, they will expire once again in September. However, conservation is a long-term undertaking that requires farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to plan years into the future.
That’s why a one year extension of the Food, Farm and Jobs Bill doesn’t work and why we need a long-term bill. Like farmers, ranchers and forest owners, we at USDA take the long view and so we’ll continue working with Congress to get a five-year bill Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed.
For an audio version of this week’s column, click here.