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National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
Conservation Committee Priorities
See the '97 Annual Meeting Overview for details
about how NCSA reached consensus on these and other priorities.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) & Conservation Farm
Option (CFO): The Campaign will work on implementation of the EQIP and CFO
programs. Both EQIP and CFO were passed in the 1996 Farm Bill, but will require
persistent pressure on USDA for them to be implemented properly.
the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the new consolidated conservation
cost share program, the focus on the final rule is to prohibit funds to large
livestock operations. In addition, more pressure is needed to focus funds on
low-tech sustainable practices, and on conservation priority areas. Credible
data collection for evaluation of EQIP must also be implemented.
for the Conservation Farm Option in Appropriations will be a priority. CFO is
designed to be a whole farm planning option that addresses multiple resource
issues and allows farmers to combine cost-sharing practices, incentive payments,
and land retirement payments into one easy check. We need to keep pushing for
the request for proposals, then urge good proposals to be submitted.
- Clean Water Act (CWA): As Congress attempts to reauthorize the CWA,
polluted runoff from agriculture ought to be a top priority, since it is the
leading source of water pollution in the country. Impaired watersheds should be
targeted first, and all contributing landowners do site-specific plans to reduce
runoff. The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, destroyed by an influx of nutrients from
the Mississippi watershed, will be part of our education focus.
- State Technical Committees: After working to make the newly formed
State Technical Committees better able to serve communities, farmers, and the
environment, we need better information to compare what's going on and what we
should be fighting for. There is a remarkable amount of state and local
discretion in implementing CRP and EQIP, so the Campaign will work for a strong
presence in each state, help to plan strategies for STC members and facilitate
- Farmland Protection: The 1996 Farm Bill included a farmland
protection program to send funds to successful state programs, but there needs
to be assurance of full funding at the authorized levels with no cap. In 1996,
17 states received $15 million to help protect more than 200 farms from
development. In addition we want to explore ways to enhance protection from
development pressure with a focus on keeping farms profitable.
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) & Wetlands Reserve: These
programs were big winners in the farm bill, with language to retain and reform
them towards retiring lands that are environmentally vulnerable, while releasing
lands that can readily be farmed with good conservation practices.
Unfortunately, every step of reform is being met with backsliding. The
Campaign will monitor implementation decisions, comment on rules and pressure
USDA to meet the intention of Congress in the language of the programs.
- Whole Farm Planning: Whole Farm Planning is an integrated,
site-specific look at an individual farm that pulls together the multiple
environmental goals and economic goals of the farmer. This is not a single
program, but an approach to conservation policy that we intend to support in
many contexts. Many problems can be solved simultaneously with sustainable
farming systems. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) is
designed to encourage use of whole farm plans; Conservation Farm Option (CFO)
is centered on a whole farm plan; the Fund for Rural America could be used to
research and demonstrated whole farm planning; and the NRCS pilot program of the
last few years needs to be evaluated. The Campaign will press for whole farm
planning in implementation of USDA conservation programs and at every level of
- Feedlots: The Clean Water Act is failing miserably at controlling
pollution from large feedlots. In conjunction with the Clean Water Network,
The Campaign will work to build support for a new feedlot bill designed to
effectively regulate confined animal feeding operations and level the playing
field between radically different state regulations. In addition, there are
many possible reforms that EPA could undertake under current law to get a
handle on large lagoons, manure spills, and over-application of manure on land.
- Compliance/Sodbuster/Swampbuster: These ten-year-old programs
require farmers who get commodity payments to control erosion and not drain
wetlands. Enforcement was weakened in the 1996 Farm Bill. The Campaign will
continue to monitor them and support their implementation. As freedom to farm
payments decline over the next seven years, there will be no way to enforce
these provisions, unless we get them hooked into revenue insurance and other
future commodity programs.
- Administrative Action for Clean Water Act: The weakening of
Swampbuster sets a very bad precedent for implementation of other wetlands
protection laws under the Environmental Protection Agency. As NRCS, EPA and
other agencies develop a new memorandum of agreement, strong involvement is
needed to make sure that wetlands controls are not weakened.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentive Plan: WHIP is a new program that needs
good rules to be written and appropriations for implementation to begin. It
will send $50 million to help farmers pay for habitat, wetlands, and endangered
- Empowerment Zones: Anecdotal information tells us that under the
guise of rural economic development, USDA funds are being used in empowerment
zones to subsidize environmentally destructive factory farms and processing
plants that undermine sustainable farmers. USDA implementation of empowerment
zones needs to be monitored.
©1997 Committee for
Sustainable Farm Publishing
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