Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust, says farmers will be hard-pressed to meet the food, biofuel and fiber needs of the world in the next few decades under more environmental and land resource pressure.

He cited the Environmental Working Group's recent report — Losing Ground — which says the annual erosion rate in Corn Belt states is 3.9 tons per acre. Losing Ground provides a critical analysis of soil erosion using data collected by the USDA, Iowa State University scientists, and the Iowa Daily Erosion Project.

“This is a cause for concern,” says Scholl. “AFT analysis of additional data from the National Resources Inventory also shows that each of the 48 contiguous states lost agricultural land to development. More than 23 million acres of agricultural land were converted from 1982-2007 — an area the size of the state of Indiana.”

“Simply put, conservation and farmland protection are at a crossroads,” he adds. “Land and healthy soil are the strategic resources critical to our nation’s ability to feed itself and to secure our nation’s future. Conservation programs are vital to maintaining those resources.”

Scholl notes that key conservation programs, which help farmers improve and protect soil, farmland and water were cut significantly in the FY2011 federal budget.

“At a time when we are debating which public programs do the most for our money — it seems prudent to invest our public agricultural support conservation now, so we are best positioned to meet the challenges ahead,” he says.

“Conservation programs in the farm bill are vital to making sure farmers have what they need to protect their farms and our environment while also meeting the incredible production demands of a hungry world.”