Key policymakers involved in writing the next Farm Bill indicate conservation practices again will be a key focus.
Iowa’s two U.S. Senators are on the Senate Ag Committee and the Republican — Senator Charles Grassley — says figuring out how to encourage soil conservation and water quality measures on the farm is crucial. “We have to think about having an environment so that the next generation of farmers will be able to farm as well,” Grassley says. “With a son and a grandson in our family farming operation, I appreciate how difficult that is but I also appreciate how important the farm program is to making that happen.”
Paul Johnson, a dairy farmer from Decorah, was head of the Natural Resource Conservation Service from 1993 to 1997. “We all need to understand the importance of private lands in the environmental health of our country. Two-thirds of all the land in this country is in farming and ranching and small foresty,” Johnson says. “If we’re going to have clean water, if we’re going to abundant wildlife and biodiversity and good landscapes and all, it’s because farmers and ranchers are going to make it that way.”
Johnson says the Farm Bill is the most important conservation policy statement from the federal government and that’s why he was in Ankeny Monday to testify at a Senate Ag Committee field hearing on the Farm Bill. “We have a history of conservation in agriculture that I think is a very good one,” Johnson says. “Go back 70 years ago. We weren’t doing very well and then we committed ourselves to providing assistance — technical and financial — to farmers and ranchers and we’ve made a huge difference and I think we can continue that if we really want to.”
Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge echoed Johnson’s call for outlining conservation measures in the next Farm Bill. “We really must take (into) consideration working to make certain that we are protecting the water, we’re protecting the soil and that farmers have some help doing that. That costs money. That digs into the bottom line,” Judge said in brief remarks at the U.S. Senate hearing. “We have to make certain that those resources are there for them…because I want to say very clearly farmers are good stewards and they want to be good stewards in the future.”