Congresswoman Kristi Noem puts on her Carhartts to visit her neighbor Eric and recite some platitudes about farming:
She says the new Farm Bill is really good and chock full of ideas she came up with. Hmm… so did she come up with getting rid of the Conservation Stewardship Program?
The draft farm bill presented by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) eliminates the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the nation’s largest conservation program and the only farm bill conservation program focused on advanced conservation systems to foster a more sustainable agriculture.
In an attempt to make this elimination of CSP appear palatable to the farmers and ranchers who depend on this program, the Chairman has attempted to frame the decimation as simply folding CSP into the Environmental Quality Incentives program (EQIP).
…The bill proposes to cut working lands programs by nearly $5 billion*. CSP and EQIP are the two largest working lands conservation programs. The bill eliminates CSP, “folds it into EQIP,” and proposes to gradually increase funding for EQIP from $2 million to $3 million by 2023. As illustrated in score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this modification would cut funding working lands by nearly $5 billion ($4.925 to be exact) over 10 years. It is hard to see how a bill that cuts working lands conservation by such a massive amount is in any way shape or form prioritizing working land. By way of contrast, the 2014 Farm Bill cut the entire conservation title by $4 billion over 10 years [National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, “Get the Facts—H.R. 2 Eliminates Nation’s Largest Conservation Program,” SustainableAgriculture.net, April 2018].
Noem also doesn’t mention what appears to be a G. Mark Mickelson idea, diverting remaining funding from real conservation efforts to CAFO sewage ponds:
CSP offers supplemental payments for resource-conserving crop rotations and a consideration of environmental benefits when determining contract payments, but these features are nonexistent in the “stewardship contracts proposal.” The House bill also eliminates the key opportunities to incentive and properly reward farmers for their advanced conservation efforts and their work to actively manage and improve conservation on their farm. It takes a further step backward by allowing funding to go to the construction of manure lagoons and sprayfields for concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), activities that are explicitly prohibited for funding within CSP right now. This could siphon off much of the funding for stewardship contracts to activities with low or even negative environmental outcomes [NSAC, April 2018].
Our only comfort this morning is that this Farm Bill is going nowhere, thanks in part to Noem’s bad idea about jerking SNAP recipients around:
…The bill is virtually dead on arrival. Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic adviser for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and a longtime farm bill observer, says the ag commitee’s version will likely never pass the House. Moderate Republicans oppose the SNAP changes and hard-right Republicans oppose essentially all anti-hunger and farm spending.
Even if Republicans do pass the bill through the House, he adds, their SNAP agenda will run into a brick wall in the Senate, where the GOP leadership has vowed to maintain the status quo. And according to Hoefner, the Senate agriculture leadership, Republican and Democratic alike, have shown no appetite for slashing conservation funds [Tom Philpott, “The GOP House’s Farm Bill Would Gut a Key Conservation Program,” Mother Jones, 2018.04.19].
Looks like Kristi will have to get her Carhartts dirty working on a better Farm Bill.