Dave Petty, an Eldora cattle producer, told members of Congress onThursday (April 26) that USDA’s conservation programs are a great asset to cattle producers. “We want to see them continued and refined to make them more producer-friendly and more effective in protecting the environment in a sensible manner,” he said.
Petty’s comments were made to the subcommittee on conservation, credit, rural development and research of the U.S. House’s Ag Committee. The Iowan was testifying on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
“While much attention is given to the commodity title and to the nutrition programs, cattle farmers nationwide urge lawmakers to not overlook the important conservation programs authorized in the farm bill,” he said.
One program that accomplishes this is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). “It is the most popular and effective program used by cattle producers,” Petty said. “NCBA’s membership strongly supports the continuation of EQIP, and the provision from the 2008 Farm Bill that dedicates 60% of EQIP dollars to livestock,” he said.
EQIP is a voluntary cost-share program that enhances air, soil, and water quality, along with improved wildlife habitat on grazing lands. “The way to get the best value out of these types of program dollars is to have the method of delivery as clear, concise and quick as possible,” he said. “We would support efforts to streamline the application process to reduce the length of time it takes to approve an application,” he said.
The Iowan also said cattle producers support CRP (Conservation Reserve Program), but “emphasis should be placed on enrolling buffer strips, grass waterways and only the most environmentally sensitive portions of farms so program dollars provide the most benefit to the public. We would discourage the enrollment of entire fields or farms; a practice that we believe adversely affects local economies, and makes it difficult for beginning farmers to enter farming or ranching,” he said.
“We do believe that managed haying and grazing on CRP land should be permitted where the State Technical Advisory Committees recommend it under an approved plan,” Petty said. In these instances, he emphasized, the CRP payment should be reduced by the value of the forage harvested or grazed.
Budgetary issues are a concern as Congress works on the next farm bill, but when it comes to conservation, Petty said NCBA asks that the livestock sector not be disproportionately impacted by budget limitations or reductions.
He also gave strong support to ensuring adequate NRCS and USDA personnel are available for technical assistance and efficient management of applications. “Resources must be allocated to maintain adequate NRCS personnel at the local level,” he said.