Cattlemen Call for Improved Conservation Programs
WASHINGTON - As policymakers consider priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill, cattle producer-members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) say conservation programs that keep land in production better meet the mutual goals of resource development and resource conservation.
John O’Keeffe, NCBA member and Oregon cattle producer, testified today before the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development and Research on agricultural conservation programs within the Farm Bill.
“The goal of conservation programs should be to maintain a balance between keeping good, well-suited working lands in production and providing for conservation of species and natural resources,” said O’Keeffe. “USDA has numerous programs that are currently utilized by cattlemen, and we know that these programs will be a highlight of the 2007 Farm Bill.”
As examples of conservation programs most popular among ranchers, O’Keeffe cited the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and the Conservation Security Program (CSP).
“WHIP’s cost-sharing and technical assistance provisions provide assistance to conservation-minded landowners who are unable to meet the specific eligibility requirements of other USDA conservation programs. Likewise, the GRP has been very successful in helping landowners restore and protect grassland while maintaining the acres for grazing and haying.”
O’Keeffe said many ranchers who consider enrolling in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), are discouraged because this program requires the producer to stop productive economic activity on the land.
“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 allow more working-lands programs that will have tangible benefits on environmental quality and help to improve our ranching lands,” said O’Keeffe.
“The conservation of our natural resources is incredibly important, and ranchers are a partner in conservation. We strive to make our operations as environmentally friendly as possible, and conservation programs are an important tool.”