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Conservation programs do well in farm bill

By Dave Thompson

Bismarck, ND – The chief of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service says the new farm bill is good for conservation programs.

"I don't think the question was ever, 'How much money can we take from conservation? Is this a wise investment?'" said NRCS head Arlen Lancaster. "I think the conversation was always very positive -- how much more can we add, and how do we make the programs more effective."

Lancaster says that message was received loud and clear when USDA held "listening sessions" before the farm bill debate. He says this time around, NRCS has &1.7 billion for cost share programs. He says besides the "Equip" program -- which helps farmers get started in conservation practices, such as cover crops and no-till -- the NRCS has revamped its "Conservation Security Program" to make it the "Conservation Stewardship Program."

"We'll pay producers for the new conservation practices they're implementing, and to some degree, the maintenance costs for some of their existing practices," said Lancaster.
He says the programs help preserve and enrich soils, improve moisture retention and help farmers' bottom lines.

"The real success of our programs is that they're voluntary, incentive-based programs that help producers meet their goals, and in doing so, the public benefits," said Lancaster.

Lancaster was in Bismarck for a national meeting of state agriculture departments.