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Farmers Offered Conservation Opportunity

September 21, 2009

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Minnesota farmers are being advised that a deadline is nearing for what is being called a "great opportunity." September 30 is the last day to sign up for the Conservation Stewardship Program, which rewards those who manage their active land in a way that improves conservation - for example, for maintaining healthy soil, clean water and good wildlife habitat.

Adam Warthensen, federal policy organizer with Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project, notes the program is part of the new Farm Bill, which he calls a good approach to responsible farming and land stewardship.

"Farmers are able to enroll working farmland - that's pasture, cropland and non-industrial forest - into the program. They will be supported for existing conservation and rewarded for new conservation they're willing to do on that land."

He says 13 million acres of land nationally are eligible for the sign-up each year, including more than 300 million acres in Minnesota. Warthensen calls the program a good way to reward farmers for managing farmland in a way that leads to real, successful conservation outcomes.

The program is a good indication of a shift in farm priorities, he adds - for too long, he says, farm policy has been tilted against stewardship.

"Those farmers who have been doing good conservation on their land have faced a bias within the farm programs, particularly the commodity programs. What this program does is provide conservation outcomes. Those are public benefits and that's one of the ideas behind why we need this out there."

This has been a short sign-up period - it began August 10 - but Warthensen says a good response this year will demonstrate the growing interest among farmers in protecting the land and employing conservation measures.

More information is available at www.landstewardshipproject.org and through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, www.nrcs.usda.gov.

Jim Wishner/Diane Ronayne, Public News Service - MN