Thu January 10, 2013
Feds Cut Conservation Stewardship Funding
Funding has been cut for a popular federal program that pays Wisconsin farm and forest landowners who work to conserve their land.
While the USDA's Conservation Stewardship Program will live on, managers won't be accepting new applicants. The funding was part of the 2008 Farm Bill, but was yanked when the bill was extended.
There are over 750,000 Wisconsin acres enrolled in the program. Darin Von Ruden is the President of the Wisconsin Farmers Union. He says there’s a lot more land that still needs protection, “The number of acres are still pretty substantial that could have benefited from the program, with funding cut, there are farmers that won’t be able to take advantage of that program.”
The decision to remove funding has been controversial. Ryan Stockwell is the agriculture program manager with the National Wildlife Federation. He supports the program and says it is a good investment of taxpayer dollars, “What the program has done for encouraging adoption of good conservation practices. In a lot of these, it’s not asking farmers to make huge significant changes, and it doesn’t cost a lot of taxpayer dollars. We’re talking about small changes slowly building on the changes they made.”
Nearly 500 Wisconsin farmers entered the Conservation Stewardship program in 2012. They'll be the last group to be paid unless funding is restored in the next Farm Bill.