February 06, 2007

Rewarding sustainable farming: the Conservation Security Program

There are several government programs that either pay farmers to adopt sustainable farming techniques, mitigate environmental disasters or preserve wildlife habitat. That's great, though one thing you'll hear from the farming community is that there are farmers who do that already.

It would be nice if they could be rewarded for doing the right thing by something other than a voluntary disadvantage in the marketplace. And they could be, because there's a government program that was designed to do exactly that. Naturally, that program is run on a shoestring, regularly pillaged to make up for shortfalls elsewhere and on its current schedule, would about 50 years to get around to offering its temporary enrollments to farmers in every state. It's called the Conservation Security Program (CSP.)

CSP in the news

A recent report examined the impact of the CSP program on wildlife habitat and found that wildlife habitat was not only directly benefitted by the program, but that it decreased the use of ecosystem damaging pesticides. The full report on CSP and it's impact on wildlife is here (pdf).

This article explains how CSP works, and the way sign-ups are allocated. Right now, the USDA selects watershed areas and allows farmers who meet their criteria to sign up for five to ten year contracts depending on their level of participation.

A further look at the members of the Farm & Food Policy Project who are working to influence the upcoming Farm Bill and include the CSP in their portfolio of concerns.

The profile of a farmer who already lives conservation, but can't sign up to the CSP program because the enrollment window announced for his area never received funding.

A USDA press release discusses President Bush's agricultural budget proposals for 2008, which includes funding for existing CSP contracts, but no plans to expand enrollment. Click here for Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns' press conference on the agriculture budget proposals.

Sen. Harkin, the incoming chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, expressed disappointment that the CSP program wouldn't be extended for national enrollment under the administration's proposal, which wouldn't budget for new signups until 2009.

Kathleen Merrigan, PhD, gave testimony on possible improvements to the CSP before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry last month.

Natasha is currently an intern with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, an organization dedicated to outreach and education in sustainable agriculture and food systems issues. The opinions expressed in this post are her own and are not representations on behalf of MFAI.

Posted by natasha at February 6, 2007 06:37 PM | Agriculture | Technorati links |