Conservation, Energy & Environment


With farms and ranches making up more than half of the land mass of the lower 48 states, agriculture, energy, and the environment are intimately intertwined.  Agriculture is the largest source of pollution in rivers and streams, affecting roughly half of total stream miles.  Over 100 million acres of cropland still erode at unsustainable levels, despite decades of soil conservation efforts stemming back to the Dust Bowl.  Nearly two-thirds of threatened and endangered species are listed due in some part to agriculture and agro-chemicals.

Federal farm, energy, and environmental policies have enormous implications for meeting these challenges.  Unfortunately, current policy mechanisms predominantly encourage intensive row-cropping, corn ethanol, and large-scale confined livestock production systems.  These styles of agro-industrial production are reliant on mechanization and large amounts of fossil fuels, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides.

Meanwhile, recent research once again confirms that sustainable and organic farming methods when compared to conventional agriculture can result in the reduction of nitrogen pollution and other agricultural pollutants.Additional studies also show that organic over conventional rotations show greater yield and steadily improved soil quality.

Conventional agriculture is a ravenous consumer of fossil fuels and a producer of greenhouse gases, yet sustainable and organic systems have the potential to serve as part of the solution to climate change and as a source of farm-raised sustainable and renewable energy.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and its member organizations are working to advance federal policies in the Farm Bill and Clean Water Act that promote conservation measures, the sustainable production of renewable energy, and sustainable and organic farming systems as primary means to reduce or control agricultural pollution, as well as to rebuild the soil and address climate change.

Primary farm bill implementation priorities for the Conservation, Energy & Environment Committee for 2014:

Enhance Working Lands Conservation Programs, including

  • Conservation Stewardship Program
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program
  • EQIP Organic Initiative
  • Conservation partnership programs

Secondary farm bill implementation priorities:

  • Conservation compliance and Sodsaver
  • Conservation easement programs
  • Crop insurance reform related to conservation activities

Backburner priorities:

  • Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO) regulations and subsidies
  • Climate change and agriculture

Sign on and support priorities:

  • Conservation Technical Assistance
  • Renewable energy programs – implementation

For information on NSAC’s appropriations campaign priorities, check out this page.

Recent Actions Taken by NSAC:

  • We submitted a similar letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (“Super Committee”) highlighting critical farm bill issues and urging support for the conservation programs.
  • NSAC continues to work with NRCS through a 3-year USDA Conservation Innovation Grant to integrate sustainable and organic agriculture into NRCS programs.
  • NSAC analyzed and reported on a large CSP data set from the first two program sign ups.  You can read part 1, part 2, and part 3 on our blog.
  • NSAC secured a number of important changes to various components of the CSP for the 2012 sign up.
  • NSAC submitted comments on USDA’s proposed Greenhouse Gas Measurement Methods and Guidelines.
  • NSAC submitted comments on proposed revisions to four critical Conservation Practice Standards.
  • Throughout the FY2011 and FY2012 appropriations process, NSAC wrote or co-authored a number of organizational sign-on letters urging members of the House, Senate, and Administration to support conservation programs and oppose major cuts to mandatory conservation spending.  You can read these letters here, here, here, here, here, and here.
  • NSAC, along with 56 other conservation groups, delivered a set of conservation principles to Congress to help guide the development of the conservation title of the farm bill.  Accompanying the principles document was this press release.
  • NSAC submitted comments on the 2010 Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Interim Final Rule and assisted with outreach for the CRP-Transition Incentives Program.
  • Click here to read NSAC’s chart listing NRCS’s High Tunnel Pilot Program recipients by state.
  • NSAC submitted Comments on the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program Transition Incentives Program Interim Rule, 75 Fed. Reg. 27165, July 13, 2010.
  • NSAC and 76 other agriculture organizations sent a Letter to Senators in support of Climate Change legislation, July 13, 2010.
  • NSAC submitted these comments to NRCS on the Wetlands Reserve Program Interim Final Rule, March 16, 2009.
  • NSAC submitted these comments to NRCS on the Technical Service Provider Assistance Interim Final Rule, March 17, 2009.