Editor’s Note: On October 24, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) released its 2018 Farm Bill policy platform, An Agenda for the 2018 Farm Bill, which provides a comprehensive vision for a more sustainable farm and food system based on the recommendations and experience of American family farmers and the organizations that represent them. This is the third post in a multi part series detailing NSAC’s policy platform for the 2018 Farm Bill.
Environmental challenges are not new to farmers and ranchers; most have been battling the elements in one way or another for the entire career. What is new, however, is the extremity and frequency of those challenges. Producers are increasingly struggling to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of extreme weather, soil and plant health issues, and issues with pests and invasive species. It is no small wonder, given the challenges posed by nature, that for most farmers conservation is second nature. By implementing conservation activities on their farms, producers can both improve the resiliency and productivity of their own operations, and also protect and enhance shared natural resources.
Given the wide ranging benefits of conservation agriculture, as well as the increasingly extreme impacts of environmental disasters, the need for a farm bill that strongly supports federal conservation programs and policies is greater than ever.
Farm bill investment in conservation has come a long way since the first farm bills – between 1933 and 1985, there was no farm bill funding for conservation at all. The 1985 Farm Bill was the first to add a Conservation Title, and the first time conservation programs received direct farm bill funding. Conservation agriculture programs enjoyed broad support for decades – until the 2014 Farm Bill, which marked the first time that the Conservation Title was cut since its creation over three decades ago. Since passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, those cuts, totaling roughly $6 billion when automatic sequestration cuts are factored in, have severely hindered farmers’ ability to access conservation support.
Source: National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition, November 17, 2017.