A Call to Action on Conservation Compliance

The views presented in these blogs are those of the authors.


Over the last 25 years, one of the least publicized conservation efforts may have actually been one of the most effective. Known as conservation compliance, for the last two and a half decades, farmers have agreed to basic conservation practices on certain vulnerable lands in return for receiving certain federal support. The results of this 'conservation compact' between farmers and taxpayers have been astounding. Data show that millions of acres of wetlands have been saved, billions of tons of soil have stayed on farms instead of entering waterways, and millions of acres of marginal, erosion-prone soil have remained healthy and productive.

As Congress reauthorizes the farm bill, it is critical that the conservation gains we have made over the last 25 years be maintained. Unless included in the farm bill, there is a possibility that, for the first time in a quarter century, conservation compliance provisions will no longer be attached to the largest federal payment program going to producers.

As federal farm policy is updated, it is increasingly likely that some commodity programs will be phased out in favor of a strengthened crop insurance program that is becoming the core component of the farm safety net. It is essential that conservation compliance also be updated to include the crop insurance premium assistance.

There is a great deal at stake: Approximately 100 million acres of U.S. cropland (about 25 percent of all cropland) are considered highly erodible according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). At the same time, the National Resources Inventory shows there are around 26 million acres of wetlands on cropland, pastureland, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres, and rangeland—some of which are at risk of being converted to agricultural production. These vulnerable lands are protected – and must continue to be protected – through the combination of incentive based programs and conservation compliance provisions.

Jim Moseley
Co-Chair, AGree

Download the full Conservation Compliance: A 25-Year Legacy of Stewardship report at FarmBillFacts.org.