Strengthen Conservation in 2012 Farm Bill?

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Musings of a Pig Farmer by Larry Sailer

The Conservation Title of the U.S. Farm Bill has “come under the microscope” as lawmakers look for ways to reduce federal government spending without sacrificing outcomes. Because many existing programs help prevent soil erosion and the excessive runoff of nutrients, special interest groups are interested in preserving these programs. Other groups question the necessity of certain programs like Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and are advocating reducing the CRP program in favor of Environmental Quality Incentive Programs (EQIP). Still others question the wisdom of paying farmers annually for farm management practices they have in place to protect the land and watersheds.

Look how clear the water is!

Unless they have a strong interest in agricultural or environmental issues, most Americans probably aren’t keeping up with the ensuing debate. Many Americans probably don’t even realize what these types of conservation programs entail or how they can affect farm management decisions.

Today I want to show you some of the conservation programs that I’ve implemented on my own farm:

  • Wildlife habitat – Trees, shrubs and other plants provide shelter and food for wildlife. In my case, a drainage creek cut off the corn of my home farm. I used to farm this 5-acre parcel, but it was always difficult to manage all of the point rows. So, I decided to plant these five acres to trees and bushes for wildlife habitat.
  • Buffer strips – I installed a buffer strip on the south side of my wildlife habitat, so that no soil can wash into the creek. Buffer strips, which are often planted to grasses, slow water runoff and trap sediment. They also provide food, nesting cover and shelter for many wildlife. species.
  • Minimum tillage – Disturbing the soil as little as possible with tillage equipment helps reduce erosion. I like to leave ground cover (i.e. last year’s corn stalks or bean stubble). In the field I’ve pictured, natural fertilizer (pig manure) was injected into the soil last fall by a tank spread. Because of this fertilizer application, I lightly tilled the soil before planting this spring.

I have not received government money for any of these projects. Because I take my responsibility as a steward of the land seriously, I believed these actions were needed to help preserve water quality and to create natural habitat for deer and pheasants. I believe most farmers share this same mind-set: saving our resources is just the right thing to do.