In Case You Missed It… Op-Ed: “2012 Farm Bill includes a strong conservation title … the time for action is now”

Op-Ed: “2012 Farm Bill includes a strong conservation title … the time for action is now”

  • National conservation group today agrees with hundreds of conservation organizations across the country in supporting Senate Farm Bill's approach to streamlining and strengthening conservation efforts in 2012 Farm Bill.
  • President of National Association of Conservation Districts says: “The 2012 Farm Bill includes a strong Conservation Title that helps producers implement conservation practices through a voluntary, incentive-based approach — rather than through a top-down regulatory approach. It streamlines and consolidates programs for increased efficiency and ease-of-use for producers, while maintaining critical funding for all of the conservation purposes needed to implement conservation where it counts.”

Farm Bill matters to the Chesapeake Bay

By Gene Schmidt
Schmidt is president of the National Association of Conservation Districts.

We need a 2012 Farm Bill now.

The Senate Agriculture Committee deserves high accolades for its swift, bipartisan passage of a common-sense Farm Bill that will soon be taken up by the full Senate. The House is also making strong progress on its own bill.

This is truly a reform bill. And, as a conservationist, I can't underscore enough how important this bill is to the future of the Chesapeake Bay.

The bottom line is, producers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have the opportunity to set the national standard for watershed conservation and protection. They have the know-how and the desire to do it; they just need the right tools and resources to get the job done. Success in the Chesapeake Bay is not an option; it's a necessity. The rest of the country is watching what happens here as they look to set their own water quality goals.

I strongly believe that the 2012 Farm Bill — and in particular, the Conservation Title — will set us on a course for success. One specific aspect of the bill, creating a Regional Conservation Partnership Program, empowers state and local decision-makers to get the job done on the ground, taking into consideration the unique needs and challenges of the region. Conservation districts are active partners in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and are ready to hit the ground running with this program.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program aggregates national watershed funding levels to increase support for water quality restoration and enhancement, nutrient management, sediment reduction and water quantity conservation by $30 million to $40 million a year. By targeting 6percent of popular conservation programs — such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program — and by providing mandatory funding toward water quality goals, approximately $1.17 billion is authorized over five years with the hope of advancing work in the Chesapeake Bay and watersheds nationwide.

The 2012 Farm Bill includes a strong Conservation Title that helps producers implement conservation practices through a voluntary, incentive-based approach — rather than through a top-down regulatory approach. It streamlines and consolidates programs for increased efficiency and ease-of-use for producers, while maintaining critical funding for all of the conservation purposes needed to implement conservation where it counts.

While the bill isn't perfect, as nothing is, partisan politics could potentially hamper the passage of this common-sense policy that can provide real benefits to landowners and the landscape. Let's not let the ideal of perfect get in the way of good, progressive changes that make sense.

This bipartisan bill gives senators from the Chesapeake Bay states a tremendous opportunity to step up to the plate and do the right thing — both for the protection and preservation of our nation's natural resources, as well as for the production of the food, feed, fuel and fiber that will sustain our growing population for the future.

The time for action is now.

This column originally appeared in the Roanoke Times: http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/commentary/wb/309896