January 13, 2015
Using sustainable farming methods to grow food and fiber is nothing new – in fact, sustainable farming is the foundation of growing practices in our nation and around the world. Although many of today’s farmers know more than a thing or two about feeding our nation’s families while conserving soil for future generations, keeping our water and air clean, and encouraging wildlife and pollinators like honeybees, it’s not always easy – or cheap – to do things the right way.
Brothers Tom and Tim Nuessmeier have always made conservation on their southern Minnesota farm a priority. When they signed up for the federal Conservation Stewardship Program in 2010, they saw an opportunity to try a couple of new conservation-producing practices–including a new cover crop rotation on 100 acres of their cropland. “We had wanted to experiment with less tillage, but on an organic farm that’s tough,” said Tom. “But CSP gave us the impetus and the support to get it done. The CSP contract helped us extend our rotations, reduce our tillage, expand some markets, and get a good payment for doing good conservation.”
CSP rewards farmers for their on-farm conservation methods and inspires them to do more – just like it did for the Nuessmeiers. As another farmer in Iowa, Jeff Hafner, put it: “It [CSP] helps the new guy get started and it helps the crusty old guys try new things.”
As great as CSP is, its effectiveness is being threatened. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) just released new language for CSP that includes loopholes and limitations that will make it harder for farmers to access the program (especially beginning and small farmers) and receive support for the highest-impact efforts on their farms.
We need to act now! NRCS is seeking input until January 20 from farmers and the public – meaning we have a chance to fix the issues and make sure CSP works for farmers! The changes we’re asking for will ensure CSP has an even bigger positive impact on our nation’s land and water, reaches even more farmers, and ensures taxpayer dollars are invested wisely in America’s agricultural legacy:
What can you do to help? The BEST thing you can do is submit your own comments to NRCS – especially if you’re a farmer. We’ve got instructions and guidance online to help you get started! Crunched for time? You can also sign our letter to NRCS Chief Jason Weller (seriously, it’ll just take a minute), and we’ll deliver it on January 20.
With your help, we can make sure CSP really works for our nation’s farms, farmers, and environment.