A report released yesterday by a coalition of Midwest farm organizations shows that the Conservation Security Program (CSP) is spurring on-farm conservation. The report finds farmers enrolled in the Conservation Security Program are taking advantage of the programs incentives by adding new practices to their farms that protect natural resources.
The report was the culmination of a project conducted in the Midwest by a number of farm groups to assess the regional implementation of CSP. The report and CSP were highlighted yesterday at a hearing conducted by the U.S. House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Energy and Research. The Missouri section of the report was compiled by the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC). Other states covered in the report include: Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin.
The Conservation Security Program is securing and driving on-farm conservation that supports better care of the land and environment, said Rhonda Perry, MRCC program director and report partner. CSP also has important potential to provide long-term economic benefits in rural Missouri and nationwide.
The report, The Conservation Security Program Drives Resource Management: An Assessment of CSP Implementation in 5 Midwestern States, finds that once they are enrolled in the working lands program, the majority of farmers are adding new conservation practices to their operations.
Most commonly, farmers enrolled in the program are adding new wildlife habitat to their farms. Those practices can include planting native grasses, fencing off wetlands and wooded areas, adding winter cover to cropland or adding grassed field borders. Farmers are also adding conservation practices that improve nutrient management, reduce pesticide use, addresses farmstead issues, and more.
The program is very rewarding, said Glenn Spring, CSP producer in Missouri. It pays good. But it also makes you more conscious of being a good manager. The best thing about it is that it encourages you to do things that you ought to be doing anyway.
Farmers can add new practices as part of their initial Conservation Security Program contract. They can also modify their contracts annually and receive higher payments by adding new conservation practices, following their first year of enrollment in the program.
CSP was created in the 2002 farm bill and will be up for re-authorization by Congress in the 2007 farm bill. Nationwide, nearly 20,000 farms are enrolled in CSP, totaling 16 million acres. In Missouri, 1,578 farmers are enrolled in CSP, covering over 750,000 acres. However, because of funding cuts, only a third of the farmers nationwide who qualified for CSP in 2006 were enrolled in the program.
Overwhelmingly, farmers want the Conservation Security Program to be a part of the next farm bill, but they want secure funding for the program, said Tim Gieseke, who is with the Minnesota Project and who authored the report.
Congress and the administration have cut $4.3 billion from the Conservation Security Program since the program was created in the 2002 Farm Bill. Inadequate funding has resulted in unfulfilled contracts even when farmers qualify, an inequitable watershed selection process, and narrow sign-up periods. Yet, as the report concludes, even with funding limitations CSP is still popular and there is overwhelming support to see it grow in the next farm bill.
This report shows that CSP drives conservation and is popular in the countryside with strong demand, says Perry, We have an opportunity to build a bigger and better CSP in the next farm bill with dedicated funding. The time to act is now.
The Conservation Security Program Drives Resource Management: An Assessment of CSP Implementation in 5 Midwestern States is the result of a project coordinated by the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute with the collaborative partners Land Stewardship Project, Minnesota Project, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Missouri Rural Crisis Center.
For a full copy of the report, please see: www.michaelfieldsaginst.org/news/mediaadvisory_04_11_2007.html
- Rhonda Perry, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, 573-449-1336
- Tim Gieseke, Minnesota Project, 507-359-1889
Published in In Motion Magazine, May 9, 2007