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Time Now for Texas Voices on Ranch and Farm Conservation

PHOTO: Time is running out for Texas ranchers and farmers to voice their views about how the Conservation Stewardship Program is set to operate for the next five years. Photo credit: Timothy J/Flickr.
PHOTO: Time is running out for Texas ranchers and farmers to voice their views about how the Conservation Stewardship Program is set to operate for the next five years. Photo credit: Timothy J/Flickr.
January 16, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - It's an opportunity that only comes along once every five years, so as the public comment period on the Conservation Stewardship Program nears an end, ranchers and farmers across Texas and the nation are being urged to make their voices heard.

The program offers payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities, but Traci Bruckner, senior policy associate for conservation and agriculture at the Center for Rural Affairs, said among the concerns with the CSP Interim Final Rule is that it places a higher emphasis on the adoption of new practices "rather than supporting the farmers and ranchers who have been implementing conservation as a very central part of their farming operation.

"So, we're saying that they should level the playing field there," she said. "Reward farmers and ranchers equally for the environmental outcomes, regardless of when they adopt those."

Additional concerns are being raised that the CSP rule doesn't do enough to support beginning and small-acreage farmers. Bruckner said she believes it should be amended to close the loopholes that allow the largest operations to exceed payment limits.

"We're saying there should be 'actively engagement rules' applied to this," she said, "and that they should actually limit the payment limit to what the statute says, which is $40,000 per year and $200,000 over five years."

The deadline to comment about the rule to the Natural Resources Conservation Service is Tuesday. Background and a place to comment are online at nrcs.usda.gov. More CFRA analysis is at cfra.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TX