Farm Bill Conservation Programs Fundamental for Cattle Producers
WASHINGTON - Steve Foglesong is an Illinois cattle producer and currently the Policy Division Chair of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). In testifying before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development and Research today, Foglesong identified major priorities going into development of the 2007 Farm Bill Conservation Programs:
“The conservation of our nation’s natural resources is imperative, and cattle producers have a vested interest in keeping land healthy and productive, keeping water and air clean, keeping wildlife abundant, and keeping ecosystems diverse.
“Within the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill, NCBA supports working lands conservation programs. USDA has numerous programs that are currently utilized by cattlemen and we know that these programs will be a large part of the 2007 Farm Bill. We want to see these conservation programs continued and refined to make them more producer-friendly and more effective in protecting the environment in a sensible manner.
“When it comes to implementation of these programs, it is imperative that we ensure adequate support and technical assistance to make these programs successful. Resources must be allocated to maintain adequate NRCS personnel at the local level to provide the technical assistance necessary to implement successful rangeland conservation programs.
“The goal of conservation programs should be to maintain a balance between keeping well-managed working lands in production and providing for conservation of species and natural resources. We believe economic activity and conservation can go hand in hand. As such, we support the addition of provisions in the next Farm Bill that will focus programs more on working-lands.
“Given the limited resources that are available for the 2007 Farm Bill, NCBA would like to see overlap and redundancy in programs eliminated and efficiency of programs improved. The way to get the best value out of these program dollars is to have the method of delivery as clear, concise, and quick as possible. Consolidation and streamlining, as suggested in the Administration’s Farm Bill proposal, is one way to achieve that.
“The most popular program among cattlemen is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program, or EQIP. This program is the best, most effective way to get conservation projects and practices implemented on the ground for cattlemen. Because the program is so popular and has proven so effective, there still remains a substantial backlog of applications. NCBA supports increased funding for EQIP within the Conservation Title, so that the program is able to provide more producers with financial assistance as they work to implement good conservation practices and projects.
“Cattle producers across the country participate in EQIP, but the practice of arbitrarily setting exclusions that render some producers eligible and others ineligible limits its success. All sectors of the cattle industry, including custom feeders and livestock markets, should be afforded equal access to cost share dollars under programs such as EQIP or any other conservation program intended for working-lands.
“Other working-lands programs that we support include the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program, the Grassland Reserve Program, and the Conservation Security Program. These programs help keep landscapes intact, keep producers on the land, address resource concerns, and mitigate mounting environmental pressures.”
Foglesong’s testimony went into greater detail regarding the necessary revisions needed for each program to reach its full potential. A copy of the full testimony is available online at www.beefusa.org.