U.S. House leadership announced Tuesday that the farm bill will get a second vote in June, after the $867 billion dollar measure failed last week.
Some Minnesota farmers are voicing concerns that the bill would gut a program they say is vital to the state’s ag industry.
The Conservation Stewardship Program or CSP partially offsets the costs of things like cover crops that keep soil in place, and buffer strips near streams to prevent soil erosion. The program is especially important to Minnesota, where it affects almost 13 percent of the agricultural landscape, or about three-million acres.
Yet Tara Ritter of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy said CSP could have even further reach if money were available. “It’s underfunded, too – over half and sometimes up to 75 percent of all qualified applicants are turned away each year – and that’s at current funding levels,” she explained.
Ritter said eliminating CSP funding won’t kill farmers’ conservation efforts, but it may make them less popular. That’s a big deal, given that some of the practices covered help make land more resilient to climate-shifting weather events.
The House Agriculture Committee is led by Republican Mike Conway of Texas, who’s argued the most important parts of CSP have been rolled into other programs – but Ritter said that isn’t true and, “The only part of CSP that was retained is what’s called the Stewardship Contract, and those are now open to a wide range of different farmers – so for instance, factory farm animal production.”
She said that means less money for small farmers who may depend on incentives to be able to undertake conservation efforts.
The Senate version has not yet been introduced.