Last week, the US House Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry held a hearing titled “Agricultural Program Audit: Examination of Conservation Programs.” NRCS Chief Dave White was one of the witnesses, and delivered a great opening statement on the importance of conservation programs. If you missed the hearing, you can click here to listen to the audio archive.
Here are a few lines from his testimony. If you wish to read the full testimony from Chief White, please click here.
“The Sage-Grouse Initiative (SGI) is a great example of how landscape-scale conservation delivers broad benefits for agriculture. SGI focused conservation delivery within habitat core areas to help maintain large and intact grazing lands – important for the sage-grouse and for the rancher. In early 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) determined sage-grouse to be a ‘candidate’ species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which means listing is warranted but precluded by higher listing priorities and positive management actions that address threats to the species need to be taken to prevent listing. NRCS and FWS negotiated a first-of-its kind regional agreement that lets landowners know the investments they make today to benefit this declining species and the sustainability of their ranching operation by implementing NRCS conservation practices according to the SGI Conference Report can continue should sage-grouse be listed at a future date.”
“In FY 2010, EQIP financial assistance obligations by States reached almost $840 million in 36,500 contracts covering an estimated 13 million acres.”
“… conservation programs play an essential role in the Nation’s food security. Conservation helps to make farms and ranches more resilient to risks – whether from pests, disease, floods, or drought – and helps producers adapt to the challenges. Our farmers and ranchers know better than anyone the value of clean water, clear air and healthy soil for agricultural production. They know that land stewardship secures the future, and they have made incredible strides to protect the land they rely on.”
“These investments in private lands conservation are good for farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners—reduced input costs directly help the bottom line, while improved soil and water quality help maintain and even enhance long-term productivity while minimizing regulatory pressures. These same investments in conservation work for all Americans, by contributing to healthy landscapes, healthy communities, and to the food security of our nation and the world.”