Conservation Commitment in Senate Farm Bill

Cindy ZimmermanConservation, Farm Bill, Government

The Senate Agriculture Committee voted 15-5 today to approve their version of a 2013 farm bill.

stebenow“The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act includes an even stronger commitment to conservation, one borne out of the efforts by environmental and agricultural groups who sat down together to find a way to protect our soil and water resources necessary to keep agriculture strong in America for generations to come,” said Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich).

The bill includes an agreement between agriculture and conservation organizations to ensure that basic soil and wetland protection requirements were extended to apply to crop insurance premium subsidies. “We’ve come up with what we think is a very workable alternative which would not limit eligibility and which would have crop insurance tied to making sure you weren’t breaking up highly erodible land or plowing up wetlands. But if you did have an accident and something happened, maybe you drained a ditch a little bit deeper than you should have, you would have two years to mitigate that problem,” said Mary Kay Thatcher with the American Farm Bureau Federation of the framework agreed to last week by 32 groups.

Several conservation-related amendments were approved for the bill in committee, including one by Senator Thune (R-SD) to ensure tracking of conversion of native prairies to crop production and another by Sen. Heitkamp (D-NV) to allow the Natural Resources Conservation Service to have more say over how to allocate technical assistance programs among programs.

The bill is expected to move to the Senate floor next week.