Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Organizations Push for Farm Bill Conservation Principles as Congressional Activity on the Bill Looms

Fifty-six conservation, farm, wildlife and environmental groups delivered a summary of what they term "basic principles" and "priority recommendations for the conservation sections of the new farm bill" to Capitol Hill this morning, anticipating increasing Congressional activity on the farm bill later this month. Called the “Conservation Community’s Principles And Recommendations For Strengthening The Farm Bill Conservation Title,” the organizations stressed a need to "maintain robust conservation funding," the “harmonizing" of crop subsidies and conservation (including adopting a nationwide ‘sodsaver’ provision, and providing a definition of "acceptable conservation practices and activities within crop insurance law"), focusing conservation resources where the opportunities for environmental outcomes are greatest, and supporting the USDA's NRCS "conservation delivery streamlining initiative."

It is highly expected that work on the farm bill will accelerate later this month.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has committed to completing work on a Senate version of the Farm Bill in May.  And on the House side, Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) has set May 15 as the date that his Committee will markup its farm bill.

In a message accompanying the principles' release, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition stated, "In the face of continuing strong production pressure, now more than ever we need to preserve and enhance farm bill conservation policies and programs. Nothing is more important to our long-term food security, both in the near term and for generations to come, then to protect and improve our natural resource base. In light of the upcoming committee markups for the farm bill and the floor debates that hopefully will follow, members of the conservation community have gathered over the past months for an historic consensus-building process to re-affirm some basic principles and to forge agreement on priority recommendations for the conservation sections of the new farm bill.

"These principles and recommendations will serve as the benchmark by which we will measure and assess the conservation provisions as the farm bill reauthorization process moves forward.

"We are delighted to share the consensus statement with you today. The farm, conservation, wildlife, and environmental organizations signing this statement . . . will be happy to entertain your questions and comments on the attached principles and priority recommendations in the days and weeks ahead."

At the time of the statement's release, the following organizations had signed the document in support of its contents:
  • American Farmland Trust
  • American Rivers
  • Audubon
  • Audubon Minnesota
  • California Climate and Agriculture Network
  • Carolina Farm Stewardship Association
  • C.A.S.A del Llano
  • Center for Rural Affairs
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Dakota Rural Action
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Ecological Farming Association
  • Environmental Working Group
  • Friends of the Mississippi River
  • Grassworks
  • Gulf Restoration Network
  • Illinois Stewardship Alliance
  • Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
  • Iowa Environmental Council
  • Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
  • The Izaak Walton League of America
  • Kansas Rural Center
  • Kentucky Waterways Alliance
  • Land Stewardship Project
  • Lower Mississippi River Foundation
  • Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper
  • Michael Fields Agricultural Institute
  • Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
  • Midwest Environmental Advocates
  • Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service
  • Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy
  • The Mississippi River Traveler
  • Missouri Coalition for the Environment
  • National Association of State Conservation Agencies (NASCA)
  • National Catholic Rural Life Conference
  • National Center for Appropriate Technology
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society
  • New England Farmers Union
  • Northeast Organic Dairy Producer Alliance
  • Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
  • Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides
  • Oregon Tilth
  • Organic Valley Family of Farms
  • Pesticide Action Network North America
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa
  • Pollinator Partnership
  • Soil and Water Conservation Society
  • Tennessee Clean Water Network
  • Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Virginia Association for Biological Farming
  • The Wetlands Initiative
  • Women Food and Agriculture Network
  • World Wildlife Fund

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