In March, Representative Tim Walz (D-MN) proposed a bill that will make on-farm conservation easier and more accessible for farming families. The Strengthening Our Investment in Land Stewardship (SOIL Stewardship) Act would strengthen the 2014 Farm Bill’s two major land conservation programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). As well as helping these two programs, SOIL Stewardship will put a new emphasis on maintain soil health through preserving water quality, water conservation practices, and wildlife habitats.
“Maintaining our soil health is critical,” said Representative Walz. “Farmers are some of our best conservationists in this regard; it just makes good business sense. By empowering our farmers and ranchers to continue to feed, fuel and clothe the world while maintaining the health of our resources, this commonsense bill benefits both the environment and the producer’s bottom line.”
CSP is a unique farm bill program, since it helps farmers and ranchers across the country solve resource concerns using whole farm conservation systems. It is also the largest conservation program by acreage, with over 72 million acres currently enrolled in America under CSP. This bill is also the only in effect that focuses on solving priority environmental concerns by striving for continuous improvement using stewardship metrics. This aspect of CSP will grow stronger under the SOIL Stewardship Act.
The SOIL Stewardship Act also incentivizes the adoption of cover crops and resource-conserving crop rotations to make soil health a top priority. Farmers are rewarded for engaging in comprehensive conservation planning.
Under this bill, 500 million dollars would be reserved annually to fund EQIP to protect drinking water sources, as well as create and sustain wildlife habitats. While EQIP is not yet empowered to make these changes and to protect our natural water resources, under the SOIL Stewardship Act, EQIP would finally have the funding to take action to protect and maintain our healthy water sources.
In addition to these extra provisions, the SOIL Stewardship Act would have the funds to continue protecting the acreage already protected under CSP and EQIP. Allowing this Act to pass would continue to strengthen these two existing bills, and would make the business of agriculture even stronger and protected for the future.
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