Minn. Farmers are National Leaders in Utilizing the Conservation Stewardship Program
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — Minnesota would lose the most amount of federal working lands conservation dollars of any state if the Farm Bill being proposed by the U.S. House is passed, according to a new report published yesterday by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). The House Farm Bill (H.R. 2) proposes to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the largest working lands conservation program in the country. Minnesota farmers are national leaders in CSP contract participation, and elimination of the program would dramatically impact the amount of federal dollars supporting family farmers and their efforts to build soil health and improve the environment.
Agricultural states across the Midwest, Delta, Plains and the Pacific Northwest would cumulatively lose nearly $7 billion. Minnesota would lose the most funding, just over $800 million over the next 10 years. The loss of this funding would dramatically impact Minnesota’s farmers, as well as the quality of the state’s soil and water.
The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) has been advocating for the CSP since it was launched in the 2002 Farm Bill. LSP’s farmer-members believe that CSP is one of the most critical components of the current Farm Bill and promotes a vision that sustains family farmers and the land. Minnesota farmers have over 3.3 million acres enrolled in CSP, representing over 13 percent of the state’s farmland. CSP generates positive outcomes for Minnesota’s soil, water and wildlife habitat. These outcomes benefit every Minnesotan, especially Minnesota farmers.
LSP farmer-members have hosted five different on-farm visits with Minnesota members of Congress who serve on the House and Senate Agriculture Committees. Through the continued advocacy of our members, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and U.S. Senator Tina Smith introduced the SOIL Stewardship Act in the House and Senate. This proposal supports CSP and includes increased payments for cover crops, resource-conserving crop rotations and managed rotational grazing. The Senate Farm Bill includes the provision for the SOIL Act, while the House bill eliminates the program.
As the Farm Bill undergoes final conference committee negotiations between the House and Senate, Minnesota U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson is serving as a key participant in the process. In July, LSP helped coordinate a letter addressed to Rep. Peterson that was authored by over 165 Minnesota farmers. The open letter asked Rep. Peterson to fight for CSP.
“CSP is just smart farm policy that I have used on my farm,” said Darrel Mosel, a Gaylord, Minn., LSP farmer-member who signed the letter to Rep. Peterson. “This NSAC report makes very clear how harmful eliminating CSP would be to farmers who are already being squeezed on every side. It also hurts the entire community who benefits from our conservation efforts. We are looking to Representative Peterson to maintain CSP in conference committee negotiations. He has supported conservation in the past and as one of the four big negotiators on the final Farm Bill, the future of the program rests on how hard Representative Peterson fights to keep it.”
As the report states, “Conservation programs protect the water, soil and air on farms, but that assistance actually goes far beyond farmland and provides a new benefit to wildlife, local flora and to neighbors near and far who may share in the farm’s natural resources.”
Minnesota farmers, as well as the state’s soil and water, would be negatively impacted if the House Bill is adopted, and LSP will continue to advocate for the conservation provisions in the Senate Bill that maintains CSP as a strong, distinct program.