While final details of the new 6-year federal Farm Bill were still being worked out as this was written, new soil conservation incentive payments may encourage more farmers to use less tillage.
While the farm bill’s biggest impact may be to eliminate the roller coaster economics of recent years for farmers, the biggest jump in spending appears to be coming in the conservation portion of the bill. With as much as an 80 percent increase in conservation funding anticipated, this will include substantial increases for the environmental quality incentive program and the new conservation security program.
As an example, the Farmland Protection Program was authorized in the 1996 farm bill at a cost of $5 million a year. The new bill will increase spending for this program to about $100 million a year or $1 billion over 10 years. An estimated $9 billion is earmarked to help farmers and livestock producers cope with new environmental regulations.
Yet members of Environmental Defense, a non-profit organization that looks out for consumer interests in the environment, maintains the new bill did not go far enough. These officials believe that farmers who are willing to improve water quality, restore wildlife habitat or do other valuable conservation practices will not have their needs met by the new bill. But other ag officials indicate that despite these concerns if the new farm bill ends up encouraging more farmers to no-till, many of these critical conservation needs will still be met.