Farm Bill Update from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Blog
With the 2014 Farm Bill now expired without an extension in place, all eyes are now on the congressional leaders heading up the Farm Bill Conference Committee. The Committee leaders, which include Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Pat Roberts (R-KS), Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Mike Conaway (R-TX), Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), are currently working behind the scenes in an attempt to negotiate a new bill by the end of the year.
Negotiations have proven difficult because of the substantive differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The Senate bill, for example, was approved with broad bipartisan support, while the House only narrowly passed along partisan lines after initially failing on the House floor. The differences between the two draft bills can be found across nearly all twelve of the farm bill’s titles, including the conservation title.
Rye cover crops in Harford County Maryland. Cover crops are among the conservation practices supported by CSP. Photo credit: Edwin Remsberg, USDA.
Within the conservation title, the biggest split is on the future of the farm bill’s working lands conservation programs: the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program(EQIP). In the Senate bill, both major working lands programs are kept whole, and important policy improvements are made to each that increase access and environmental benefits. The bill also cuts funding for each program by equal amounts to help pay for a needed funding increase of agricultural conservation easements.
The House bill took a much different approach. The House proposes to eliminate our nation’s only comprehensive working lands conservation program, CSP, entirely. This elimination is justified by the claim that the House bill would transfer the key components of CSP to EQIP, along with a portion of CSP funding – a myth we refute in more detail below. While the House bill does transfer some CSP funding, it still cuts $5 billion in total conservation funding. The proposed elimination of CSP would also reduce agricultural sustainability and cut working lands funding from a large number of key agricultural states, denying farmers and ranchers access to comprehensive conservation support.
Please visit the NSAC blog to read more on the CSP and what's at stake in these negotiations!