Sen. Tina Smith Introduces Legislation to Support Farm Conservation Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. [05/21/18]—U.S. Senator Tina Smith recently introduced legislation that would help farmers create and maintain plans to improve soil and water quality on farms in Minnesota and across the country. Sen. Smith’s bill would also streamline coordination between two leading conservation programs in the Farm Bill.

The Strengthening Our Investment in Land (SOIL) Stewardship Act would improve the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)—which helps farmers create conservation plans to address natural resource concerns and improve soil and water quality—and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) aimed at making it possible for farmers to maintain their conservation systems. Through the SOIL Stewardship Act, family farmers and producers would be able to transition from the incentives program to enrollment in the stewardship program in order to encourage high-level conservation efforts.

“Every time I walk into the Senate Agriculture Committee, I think about the priorities Minnesotans have shared with me and what we need to focus on for a good, bipartisan Farm Bill—things like rural development and strong farm programs like crop insurance and conservation support,” said Sen. Tina Smith. “I’m introducing this bill because when it comes to conservation, we need to make sure our farmers have the opportunity to start these efforts, and keep them going long into the future to protect the environment and sustain their farms.”               

A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.) earlier this year. The SOIL Stewardship Act is supported by the Minnesota Farmers Union, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the Land Stewardship Project, and the Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition:

“Farmers work hard every day to conserve natural resources for our food and our environment. Minnesota Farmers Union thanks Sen. Smith and Rep. Walz for introducing these bills that would make it easier for farmers to enhance their conservation practices,” said Minnesota Farmers Union President Gary Wertish.

“We thank Senator Smith for introducing the SOIL Stewardship Act in the Senate. By investing in working lands conservation programs, the next farm bill can ensure that farmers and ranchers have the tools they need to maintain sustainable and productive operations long into the future,” said Alyssa Charney, Senior Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). “The SOIL Stewardship Act offers a comprehensive strategy to improve and better coordinate our two largest working lands conservation programs, and builds upon the unique approaches and functions of each individual program. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition believes this bill makes critical reforms for advancing soil health, clean water, and we strongly support its inclusion in the 2018 Farm Bill.”

“Strong and effective working lands conservation policy benefits everyone. As a farmer, I know that how we farm impacts not only our bottom line, but also water quality, wildlife habitat, and the health of our soil. We’ve used CSP (the Conservation Stewardship Program) to make conservation improvements across the whole farm that have also made our farm more resilient,” said Minnesota farmer and Land Stewardship Project organizer Tom Nuessmeier.

“Access to these conservation programs are critical to young farmers as we start and grow our farm businesses. By strengthening and streamlining working lands programs while increasing access for beginning farmers, the SOIL Stewardship Act will help create a future of economic viability for the next generation of land stewards,” said Rachel Brann, farmer-owner of Pluck Flower Farm and co-leader of the Central Minnesota Young Farmers Coalition.

Text of the bill is available here.