House Agriculture Committee subcommittees met this week to review conservation, rural development and dairy programs, starting an eight-hearing series prior to full Committee consideration of a farm bill draft. 



The conservation hearing focused on how conservation programs should be structured in the 2012 farm bill. 

There are currently more than 20 conservation programs and sub-programs under the auspices of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA), though it is likely the new farm bill will streamline existing programs into buckets for land retirement programs, easement programs, working-lands programs and cost-share programs. 



Garry Niemeyer, president of the National Corn Growers Association and a farmer from Illinois, testified at the hearing on behalf of corn growers and with the support of NAWG, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Cotton Council, the National Farmers Union and USA Rice Federation.



He voiced support for a proposal that would consolidate the existing 23 programs into 13 while maintaining the current conservation tools available to farmers, and he urged members to ensure budget cuts do not jeopardize program effectiveness.



“We are confident that with the right mix of policies, U.S. agriculture will help the world to meet these growing demands in a sustainable way, while at the same time remaining a bright spot in our nation’s economy and contributing to its recovery,” he said.



Additional witnesses at the hearing represented the National Association of Conservation Districts; American Farmland Trust; the Family Farm Alliance; Pheasants Forever, Inc.; Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance; the National Grain and Feed Association; the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition; Environmental Defense Fund; and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.



More from the conservation hearing is at http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1568.

A full list of the scheduled hearings is at http://agriculture.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=1564