June 13, 2012
As the Senate begins debate on the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240), the undersigned groups, representing millions of members across the country, urge you to support the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment (S.A 2219) introduced by Senator Cardin. This amendment would renew the long-standing conservation compact with farmers by re-attaching basic soil and water conservation measures to premium subsidies for crop insurance.
In exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have for decades committed to adopt land management practices that have successfully reduced soil erosion and protected wetlands. By shifting subsidies away from direct payments and towards a strong crop insurance safety net, this new farm bill creates a loophole in the longstanding requirements that those who receive subsidies take some minimal steps to protect the public good. This amendment would help protect what we already have from being lost due to the changes in the safety net.
The Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment closes that loophole and ensures that taxpayer funds are not rewarding agricultural producers who are draining wetlands or farming highly erodible land without conservation measures. Without these key protections, the estimated $95 billion to be spent on crop insurance over the next ten years under this bill will subsidize damaging soil erosion that chokes our waterways, increase the cost of water treatment and dredging, and reduce the long term productivity of farmland. It will also allow for the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of valuable wetlands, resulting in increased downstream flooding, loss of wildlife habitat and decreased water quality.
These soil and wetland conservation measures would be linked only to the taxpayer-funded premium subsidy for insurance and would not affect the ability of farmers to purchase crop insurance. The amendment does not in any way affect indemnity payments in the case of a disaster. Additionally, the measures retain the good faith exemptions, graduated penalty, and one-year grace period provisions from current law, ensuring that farmers would not be penalized for natural disasters such as flooding. The amendment also provides that producers who would be subject to these basic conservation requirements for the first time due to this provision would be granted five years to develop and implement their conservation plan.
As you work to reauthorize the Farm Bill over the coming days, we strongly urge you to support the Soil and Wetlands Conservation Amendment. Doing so will save money but more importantly ensure long term farm productivity by protecting vital natural resources.
Sincerely,1000 Friends of Iowa Alabama State Association of Cooperatives Alliance for the Great Lakes American Farmland Trust American Indian Mothers Inc. American Public Works Association American Rivers Arkansas Wildlife Federation Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies Association of Northwest Steelheaders Audubon Society of New Hampshire Cannon River Watershed Partnership Center for Rural Affairs Central Ohio Anglers & Hunters Club Clean Water Action Clean Water Network Clean Wisconsin Committee on the Middle Fork Vermilion River Community Food Security Coalition Conservation Council for Hawai’i Defenders of Wildlife Endangered Habitats League Environmental and Energy Study Institute Environmental Law and Policy Center Environmental League of Massachusetts Environmental Working Group Farmworker Association of Florida Friends of Blackwater Friends of the Upper Delaware River FSC Rural Training and Research Center, Epes, AL Great Lakes Committee of the Izaak Walton League Gulf of Maine Restoration Coalition Gulf Restoration Network Illinois Stewardship Alliance Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Iowa Environmental Council Iowa Farmers Union Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Iowa Wildlife Federation Iowa’s County Conservation System Izaak Walton League of America Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future Kansas Chapter of the Wildlife Society Kansas Rural Center Kansas Wildlife Federation Kentucky Waterways Alliance Lake Erie Waterkeeper Inc Land Stewardship Project Mid South Fly Fishers Midwest Environmental Advocates Milwaukee Riverkeeper Minnesota Conservation Federation Missouri Coalition for the Environment MN Division – Izaak Walton League of America National Association of Clean Water Agencies National Audubon Society National Committee for the New River National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition National Wildlife Federation Nature Abounds Nebraska Wildlife Federation Northern Great Plains Working Group Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association Ohio Environmental Council Ohio Farmers Union Ohio River Foundation Passaic River Coalition Pollinator Partnership Potomac River Association Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture Rural Advancement Fund Rural Coalition/Coalición Rural SC VOF Sierra Club Sierra Club Delta Chaper Slow Food Columbus Soil and Water Conservation Society South Carolina Coastal Conservation League South Dakota Chapter of The Wildlife Society South Dakota Grasslands Coalition South Dakota Wildlife Federation Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation Theodore Gordon Flyfishers, Inc. Trout Unlimited Union of Concerned Scientists Virgin Islands Conservation Society Water Advocates Water Environment Federation Wege Foundation WhyHunger Wildlife Forever Wisconsin Wetlands Association World Wildlife Fund