Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today said conservation is essential to producing a healthy and affordable food supply and is important now more than ever to creating new jobs and protecting our land and water. She also noted the need to continue focusing on program simplification, consolidation, flexibility and accountability.
"Conservation helps farmers and ranchers to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber while taking care of the land and water," Chairwoman Stabenow said. "The Farm Bill is a jobs bill, and that's as true of the conservation title as it is for anything else in the Farm Bill."
Stabenow continued, "As we continue our work, this Farm Bill must focus on making our programs simpler, locally driven, science-based, and flexible. These programs must ensure that taxpayers' investments in conservation are enabling agriculture to remain healthy and productive across the diverse landscapes of this great nation. We must be certain those 1.3 billion acres produce clean water, abundant and safe food, wildlife habitat, and conserve this way of life for future generations."
Chairwoman Stabenow said she is focused on building on the progress that was made last year in strengthening conservation programs. A letter signed by more than 600 groups this week thanked Chairwoman Stabenow, and other agriculture leaders, for her leadership on strengthening the conservation title of the Farm Bill (that letter can be found here). Additionally, a letter from last week signed by the major commodity groups echoed the same sentiment: "The conservation efforts in the Farm Bill are critical to a strong economy, healthy and productive rural lands and vibrant communities. We applaud your efforts to simplify these programs, keeping the same tools but merging them into fewer programs."
Michigan witness Becky Humphries, of Ducks Unlimited, also praised Chairwoman Stabenow's efforts last year in strengthening conservation programs as part of the recommendations to the super committee, and further pressed the need to include similar provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill.
"Farmers and ranchers, conservationists and sportsmen, and all citizens have much to gain from successful, sustainable farming that conserves soil, water and wildlife," Humphries said. "The regional partnership program developed in the Super Committee report is a great idea that needs to find its way in this next Farm Bill. Regional partnerships fueled by local diverse interest groups and supported by federal, state and private funders, are a key to accomplish watershed approaches and solutions that will yield a good farm economy and a healthy sustainable environment."
Chief Dave White, of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, underscored the impact conservation programs have had on improving soil and water conditions, and further reflected the need to continue strengthening conservation programs.
"The nation's investments in private lands conservation are good for farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners--reduced input costs directly help the bottom line, while improved soil and water quality help maintain and enhance long-term productivity while minimizing regulatory pressures," White said. "These same investments in conservation work for all Americans, by contributing to healthy landscapes, healthy communities, and to the food security of our nation and the world."
Additional witnesses at the hearing included Mr. Bruce Nelson, Administrator, Farm Service Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC; Mr. Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Washington, DC; Mr. Dean Stoskopf, Wheat Farmer, Stoskopf Farms, Hoisington, KS; Mr. Carl Mattson, Farmer, Mattson Farms, Chester, MT; Mr. Darrel Mosel, Farmer, Darrel Mosel Farm, Gaylord, MN; and, Mr. Earl Garber, President Elect, National Association of Conservation Districts, Basile, LA.
An archived webcast of the hearing is available for viewing on the Committee's website at http://ag.senate.gov. The Chairwoman's opening statement, as prepared for delivery, is below.
Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery
Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow
U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
February 28, 2012
Good morning and thank you all for being here as we continue our hearings on the 2012 Farm Bill.
For us in Michigan, protecting the Great Lakes is part of our DNA, and that's why this hearing on conservation is so important to me and to everyone who's in town for Great Lakes Week.
Conservation helps farmers and ranchers to grow healthy and affordable crops while taking care of the land and water.
We all benefit from the commitment our farmers have to the land. I've seen this first-hand as I've visited farms all across my state of Michigan.
Thanks to easements made possible by the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program and local partnerships, Shoreline Fruit Company knew they could keep investing in their cherry processing plant because area fruit farmers had made a commitment to keep their land in agriculture, ensuring a stable supply.
Shoreline was able to expand production, and create jobs, even in a difficult economy.
Similarly, Burnette Foods, an apple processing company that employs 500 people on the west side of Michigan, benefits from the success of easements that keep land in farming and out of residential development. They were able to purchase the last surviving cherry processing plant left on Old Mission Peninsula.
I had the opportunity to speak at the Michigan Pheasants Forever banquet just a few weeks ago, and they are doing incredible work through the Pheasant Restoration Initiative through the Voluntary Public Access program we included in the last Farm Bill. Working with volunteers and farmers, they are helping to make sure that hunting remains one of our great traditions in Michigan. But it's more than just our way of life -- there are more than 1 million hunters and anglers in Michigan who directly and indirectly support more than 46,000 jobs in my state.
I've said again and again that the Farm Bill is a jobs bill, and that's as true of the conservation title as it is for anything else in the Farm Bill.
Of course, the most direct beneficiary of conservation is our agricultural land, which must remain healthy to handle future demands on our working agricultural landscapes. While agricultural exports are strong today, global food needs are expected to nearly double as the population grows to nine billion by 2050. The pressure to produce more on the same or fewer acres, while still facing weather, price and input risks beyond their control, will stress agricultural producers for decades to come. Working lands conservation sits at the very core of our ability to meet these production challenges without sacrificing our vital natural resources. As we know, farming is measured in generations: the most successful farmers are those that can pass along a viable farming operation to their children and grandchildren.
And no farming operation can be prosperous without good quality soil and clean water in sufficient quantities. That's why conservation is such an important part of the Farm Bill.
As we continue our work, this Farm Bill must focus on making our programs simpler, locally driven, science-based, and flexible enough to ensure that taxpayers' investments in conservation are enabling agriculture to remain healthy and productive across the diverse landscapes of this great nation, so that we can be certain those 1.3 billion acres produce clean water, abundant and safe food, wildlife habitat, and this way of life for future generations.