Webinar to Cover Proposed Changes to Farm Bill Conservation Programs

By Chuck Gill, Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK –  Proposed changes to federal agricultural conservation programs being considered as part of the ongoing Farm Bill debate will be the focus of a Web-based seminar at 12 p.m. Wednesday.

The webinar is sponsored by the National Agricultural and Rural Development Policy Center, a new, federally funded virtual center based in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Presented by Adam Reimer, a postdoctoral research fellow with the center, the webinar will explore potential impacts of these changes on farmer participation in conservation programs.

The Farm Bill is a large piece of federal legislation, typically passed every five years, that includes funding for many farm and rural programs, including payments to farmers, conservation programs, rural development programs and nutrition assistance. The previous Farm Bill, passed in 2008, expired Sept. 30. The Senate passed a new bill in June, and the House Agriculture Committee passed a bill in July that has not yet reached the full House for debate.

Through agricultural conservation programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture works with farmers to protect air and water quality, provide habitat for wildlife, conserve water and control invasive species. These programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, provide payments and technical assistance to farmers across the country in exchange for adoption of conservation practices on their farmland.

“Because they are incentive-based and voluntary, conservation programs rely on participation by farmers to achieve environmental goals,” Reimer said.

“Changes to programs in the Senate and House bills potentially could change farmer participation patterns,” he explained. “Proposed changes include reductions in funding for most programs, streamlining of programs and modifications to the application process.”

This webinar is appropriate for anyone interested in how changes to Farm Bill conservation programs might affect farmer willingness to participate, Reimer noted. There is no charge to participate. The webinar can be viewed at http://connect.msu.edu/nardep.

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