American Farmland Trust (AFT) today hailed the passage of the Senate farm bill, and urged Congress to retain funding for conservation as the legislation moves through the House of Representatives.  

AFT President Jon Scholl said, “Congratulations are due to Chairman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts for their diligence in crafting this farm bill and moving it through the Senate under extremely difficult circumstances. Completing the farm bill this year is essential to continue the gains we’ve made to protect America’s working farmlands.  We urge the House to follow suit in passing this critical legislation.”

AFT is also extremely pleased that the Chambliss amendment to reattach conservation compliance to crop and revenue insurance was adopted. “Since 1985, compliance has been a successful part of farm policy,” noted Scholl.  

“As crop and revenue insurance becomes the core of agriculture’s financial safety net, we need to retain the same commitment to conservation that has been a part of past farm programs.”

Scholl added, “We appreciate how Senators Stabenow and Roberts have cooperated in bipartisan fashion to move the bill forward.”

“AFT has worked extensively with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the Committee’s senior Republican, on a number of priority reforms to conservation programs in the farm bill.   

“We particularly applaud the inclusion of the new agricultural land easement component, patterned after the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), which now includes many of the functions of the Grasslands Reserve Program, as well.

“Agricultural land easements will work through state and local partners to provide permanent protection to working agricultural lands.”

AFT further noted that the Senate adopted by unanimous consent language offered by Senators Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) that specifically supports the role of land trusts and state agencies who work with USDA in protecting farm and ranch lands through this program.   

Another priority for AFT has been the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which allows conservationists and agricultural producers to address priority natural resource concerns in critical areas, especially acute water quality and quantity concerns.

“All together, these reforms in the title provide more comprehensive and efficient tools for conservation – while also providing an important step toward deficit reduction.  

“Overall, the Senate farm bill contributes $23 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years.  More than one-quarter of the spending cuts, however, result from program reforms and reductions to programs in the Conservation Title,” said Scholl.

Scholl stated that conservation programs “have shouldered a significant  share of cuts to aid deficit reduction,” noting that that the health of America’s soil and water, which relies upon these programs, is essential to the long term productivity and economic viability of agriculture.