The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition endorsed the Conservation Security Act introduced today by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore), and Reps. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio). The bill provides financial and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers to adopt and maintain practices that improve land stewardship and the environmental performance of working farms and ranches.

"The Conservation Security Act is a bold step to put conservation at the center of our farm policy," says Ferd Hoefner, Washington Representative for the Coalition. "The sponsors have fashioned an innovative approach that moves beyond the status quo of emergency, stop-gap farm payments and shortchanged conservation efforts."

The Coalition is urging Congress to invest a significant share of the Farm Bill funding set-aside by the recently enacted budget resolution in the Conservation Security Act as well as existing agricultural conservation and natural resource programs.

The Coalition points to these specific highlights of the proposal:

  • It rewards farmers and ranchers for practices and systems that help produce clean air and water, improve soils, restore habitat and other public goods.
  • It focuses on the environmental benefits that sustainable management of working farmland can provide.
  • All regions of the country and all crop and livestock operators are equal participants in the CSA.
  • The bill allows all interested and qualified producers to participate.

The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which represents Midwest-based farm, rural, and conservation groups, praises several innovative features of the proposal. In particular, the Coalition applaudes the Act's support of farmers who are already implementing farm stewardship protocols. The Act also designates the highest rewards should flow to those providing the highest degree of stewardship, with total payments limited at "moderate" levels per individual farm or ranch. Supporters also point out the measure is compatible with US trade commitments,

"A growing coalition of agricultural and environmental groups support the Conservation Security Act," according to Hoefner. "Tying agricultural payments to conservation is good for farmers, good for the environment and worthy of public support."