When Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) retired at the end of 2014, we lost an astute and dedicated champion for conservation, beginning farmers, livestock competition, organic and value-added agriculture, and renewable energy.
On conservation, without Senator Harkin and his staff’s leadership the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would not exist today. He sponsored the original legislation and carried it through three farm bills, making improvements along the way. The senator also worked tirelessly to protect it from funding cuts.
The CSP supports and rewards farmers and ranchers for how well they protect soil, water, and wildlife on their land through conservation practices. It was a departure from traditional farm programs that reward farmers for what and how much they grow. CSP moved federal policy in a different direction. It helps farmers and ranchers apply systems-level thinking to conservation by focusing on all the land in their operation.
For far too long farmers who put conservation at the heart of their operation were ignored by federal policy. Traditional farm programs have been driven to put every acre under production – to get big or get out.
Senator Harkin worked to make conservation, through the CSP, an equal force to traditional farm program payments.
Farmers and ranchers face ever greater challenges now with unpredictable weather patterns and water quality challenges. Conservation policy, such as the CSP, is even more critical in today’s agriculture. The $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last December cut roughly $400 million over 10 years from the CSP. It was a move in the wrong direction.
They say laws and sausages are two things you should never watch being made. The process surrounding this legislation makes the idea of sausage making sound downright appealing. It also shows us how critical it is to build a new champion for conservation. Join us to ensure we move conservation forward and save ourselves from this kind of unsavory sausage making.
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