Conservation is an important part of the business calculation on any farm, and the upcoming farm bill is an opportunity to make improvements to help farmers.
David Schemm, chairman of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG), said conservation aspects of the farm bill need to be expanded and more control needs to be given to local officials who know their communities best.
For example, the Conservation Stewardship Program has local caps on the number of acres allowed. And there's no opportunity to enroll in the program more than twice.
"The flexibility and local control is important," he said.
Farmers get a financial incentive for applying best practices under the program.
No-till farming is one such practice. Schemm follows it on his land, but the rigid rules of the program, which were written long ago, do not always align with today's business realities, where tilling may be needed in some cases to avoid expensive inputs.
Another example of the need for flexibility is classification of land as environmentally protected wetlands.
These were identified during the 1980s and 1990s when there was excessive rain and haven't been revaluated since, Schemm noted.
Regulators need to have the ability to "not hold the farmers at fault because of a wet spell in the past."
According to Schemm, this means having language worded into the bill that allows local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) offices to have the flexibility to be able to quickly respond to changing dynamics.
Conservation is at the heart of farming, with or without regulations, he said.
Source: Farm Policy Facts