June 28, 2012
This week, the National Farmers Union released a poll confirming that farmers believe conservation programs and environmental stewardship are integral parts of the farm bill. Two research firms (one Democratic and one Republican) developed a survey and polled 502 farmers across 13 states in the American Heartland about their opinions on the inclusion of conservation and environmental stewardship in the farm bill.
The survey found that 61 percent of heartland farmers believe that in order to receive federal benefits, such as crop insurance subsidies, farmers should be required to follow basic conservation and environmental requirements. Last week during Senate consideration of the 2012 Farm Bill, Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) introduced and successfully passed an amendment, strongly supported by NSAC, that would link conservation compliance to crop insurance subsidies.
An overwhelming 86 percent of the respondents favor at least maintaining current or increasing funding levels for conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill. The Senate Farm Bill cut conservation by $6.4 billion (including $3.7 billion from working lands conservation programs), which may not bode well for some Senators as the poll also found that 44 percent of farmers would be less likely to support a member of Congress who voted to cut farm bill conservation funding.
Overall, conservation programs rank as the second-highest priority in the farm bill for these Midwestern farmers. Risk management coverage is the highest priority, however, the poll states, “farmers are not swayed by an argument that says conservation funding should be cut in order to prioritize risk management coverage.”
As the farm bill process moves to the House, Midwestern Representatives should keep in mind the importance their farmer constituents place on conservation and environmental stewardship.