National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson submitted comments today to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) on an interim rule regarding the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), commending NRCS for their promotion of conservation in agriculture and offering suggestions to focus the program more heavily on conservation outcomes.

“Family farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists,” said Johnson. “NFU members understand that stewardship of our natural resources is crucial to long-term farm viability and the integrity of the food supply.”

Johnson pointed out that NFU policy, enacted annually by delegates to the organization’s national convention, states, “Conservation programs should be fully funded to benefit the environment, reward stewardship of land and water resources and marine habitat, discourage speculative development of fragile land resources, strengthen family farming, and enhance rural communities.”

“CSP is a very innovative attempt at rewarding producers for enhanced conservation practices and NFU supports a robust and unrestricted program,” said Johnson. “CSP rewards farmers for adopting and managing conservation systems to address priority resource concerns, including soil, air and habitat quality, water quality and quantity, and energy conservation.”

Johnson also noted that CSP currently ranks new conservation practices disproportionally higher than existing conservation practices for both ranking and payment amount decisions. The interim rule reaffirms NRCS’ prioritization of new conservation practices in section 1470.24 (a) that, “A split-rate annual payment structure is used to provide separate payments for additional and existing conservation activities in order to place emphasis on implementing additional conservation.”

“NFU strongly recommends that NRCS focus on conservation outcomes and, therefore, give equal weight in both the ranking and payment systems to the active management of existing conservation activities and the adoption of new conservation practices,” said Johnson. “Annual payments should be fair and based on costs incurred, income forgone, and the degree to which the practices address priority resource concerns.”