Key Conservation Program in Legislative Limbo

It has been called by some “the crown jewel” of government farm programs, but the Conservation Stewardship Program — which covers some 72 million acres, and is in such demand it has only been able to fund about a third of the applications from farmers and ranchers — is in something of a legislative limbo. While the Senate farm bill leaves the program little changed, the House legislation would pretty much gut it.

Farm bill conservation programs, in total, have been the largest single source of funding for projects on private lands, providing matching funds to conservation partners to make investments go even further for protecting the nation’s productive lands.

Today’s Conservation Stewardship Program evolved from the 2002 farm bill’s Conservation Security Program, and unlike most farm bill programs that have been centered on production, it helped farmers to carry out projects to conserve soil, promote biodiversity, and expand and improve current projects, as well as beginning new ones.

Despite progress over the past decades, much remains to be done. Soil loss is still a problem, even in the productive Midwest. Water pollution remains a significant problem in many areas. Other conservation measures are needed to maintain and enhance America’s farm and ranch lands.

Some $26.1 billion was included in the 2014 farm bill for conservation funding. The 2018 House bill would combine the Conservation Stewardship Program with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), cutting funding by some $5 billion over 10 years. The Senate bill makes no major cuts to conservation programs.

Aside from the House/Senate differences, there are regional political issues at play, particularly in the House bill, that economists Jonathan Coppess, Benjamin Gramig, Nick Paulson, and Gary Schnitkey, University of Illinois, and Cal Zulauf, Ohio State University, say disproportionately favors southern and southwest states and cotton, rice, and peanuts.

“This shift in benefits is likely at the expense of Midwestern and Eastern regions,” they write, “… and is a notable concentration of the farm bill’s benefits to one region of the country with an overwhelming partisan affiliation … a troubling situation for the current stalemate that might have long-term implications for future farm bills.” (Read their analysis at

Whether the Conservation Stewardship Program survives relatively unscathed, or is chopped to pieces or even eliminated, depends on House and Senate Agriculture Committee members who are negotiating the final version of the 2018 farm bill.

Given that Congress is going to pretty much be missing in action for a good part of what’s left of 2018, thanks to the November elections and holiday recesses, farm bill negotiations may well extend into 2019. But if you have an interest in preserving funding for these important conservation programs, you might make your senators and congressmen aware of your wishes. There is info for contacting senators, representatives, and other government officials at

Source: Delta Farm Press

ProAg Quick Links

Agent Toolbox Grower Toolbox Careers

ProAg News

USDA Reports Review

The USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimate (WASDE) for July was met with much skepticism based on the corn numbers. With production 195 million bushels (mb) higher than in June and nearly 375 mb above the average trade estimate, the corn market sloughed off early weakness and closed sharply higher....

Helping wheat, corn producers target fertilizer needs

A few years ago, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Akron, Colorado began noticing a pattern to their wheat harvests: yields were higher in low-lying areas. But it was the extreme variability in yields that surprised the researchers. ...

Grants help rural businesses lower energy costs

Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley today encouraged farmers, rural small businesses and agricultural producers to apply for financing in a key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program that provides loan guarantees to help rural small businesses lower their energy costs....
Get ProAg updates via email
Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly. Update my browser now