Policy expert says Conservation Stewardship Program needed in final farm bill

A University of Illinois farm policy expert says the House and Senate conference committee should preserve the Conservation Stewardship Program in the final farm bill.  Jonathon Coppess leads the Garner Agriculture Policy Program and the Bock Ag Law programs at the University of Illinois and says, “For farmers, like in Illinois who are trying to combat nutrient loss, this is one of those programs that work within agriculture.  This isn’t taking land out of production so much, it’s helping farmers as they farm improve conservation and natural resource stewardship on their land.”

Coppess tells Brownfield the House bill eliminates the program, but farmers need it more than ever to use additional conservation practices.  “Prices are down and pressures are at the… Multiple years in a row of economic pressure and financial pressure on the farm.  Now is the time when we really need to be stepping up our conservation investments because of that exact issue.”

Coppess says the University of Illinois just studied how hard it is for farmers to adopt cover crop strategies when prices are down and farmers are experiencing multiple years of financial pressure.  “Many of these, like cover crops, do not pay out in that first crop year.  You’re going to have to work on them over multiple years to see some of the soil health improvements.”

Coppess is cautiously optimistic that Congress can get the final farm bill done yet this summer, and hopes conservation programs get the funding farmers need.

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