MN Farmers Speak Out on Farm Bill Conservation Funding

MN Farmers Speak Out on Farm Bill Conservation Funding Click to Enlarge

ST. PAUL, Minn. - With debate over the farm bill expected to resume soon, more than 150 Minnesota farmers and ranchers have asked Rep. Collin Peterson to defend sustainable-agriculture efforts during its final drafting.

The letter to Peterson, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, was initiated by Minnesota's Land Stewardship Project to defend the nationwide Conservation Stewardship Program. The program helps farmers take steps to preserve water and soil, and maintain wildlife habitat.

According to Ben Anderson, policy program organizer for federal farm policy reform with Minnesota's Stewardship Project, the program encourages farming practices such as conservation tillage, multi-species cover cropping, mob grazing and frequent rotations.

"It's the only, and largest, program in the farm bill that really looks at a comprehensive conservation approach to working lands in ways that improves their soil, limits erosion," Anderson said.

He noted that Minnesota farmers and ranchers are recognized as leaders in the number of contracts held and acres enrolled in the conservation program. Continued funding is included in the Senate version of the bill but not in the House version.

Anderson said conservation practices encouraged by the program, such as cover cropping, help keep soils resilient, especially after exposure to extreme weather conditions such as drought or flooding. He said the program has been successful because farmers and ranchers can produce on their land, while at the same time instituting conservation practices that make the most sense for their operation.

"You farm, and it helps you farm in the right ways," he said. "And that benefits all of the community as well."

A final version of the farm bill must be voted on by both the House and Senate and signed by the president to become law. The current farm bill expires on September 30.

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