Conservation and Sustainability

Farmers’ livelihoods, their ability to feed a growing population and the legacy they pass on to their children all depend on taking care of the land and using natural resources wisely.

NAWG advocates for strong conservation programs and works with growers and USDA to implement them properly. NAWG also works with coalition partners to help define “sustainability” and ensure sustainability initiatives work on the farm.

Policy Priorities

NAWG policy priorities related to conservation programs are outlined in NAWG’s Policy Resolutions, available here.

Key Farm Bill Conservation Programs

Conservation programs outlined in the 2008 Farm Bill help producers maintain and improve their land through cost-sharing and project development. Key conservation programs authorized in that bill include the following:

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP): The 2008 Farm Bill reduced the acre cap for CRP to 32 million acres and provided for managed harvesting of biomass subject to the purposes of CRP and soil, water and wildlife considerations. For more, visit the USDA CRP page.

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): A revamped version of the Conservation Security Program in the 2002 Farm Bill, this is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt new ones. The program was authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill and capped at 12.796 million acres enrolled per fiscal year. For more visit the USDA CSP page.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): EQIP provides payments up to 75 percent of the incurred costs and income foregone of certain conservation practices and activities. For more visit the USDA EQIP page.

Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP): The WRP cap was set at just over three million acres. For more, visit the USDA WRP page.

Sustainability and the Field to Market Coalition

NAWG is also engaged in conversations about sustainability as they relate to farms and the food system. A third- or fourth-generation farmer’s idea of sustainable practices might be very different than that of a city dweller far removed from the farm. Bridging the knowledge gap is an important part of these discussions.

NAWG has joined producer representatives, conservation groups, members of academia and others in the Field to Market coalition,which has the goal of defining, measuring and documenting changes in sustainability over time, which will allow agriculture to better tell its story about gains that have already been made and set priorities for next steps. Through these efforts, agriculture groups hope to strike a long-term balance between environmental concerns, natural resource concerns and feeding an estimated nine billion people by the year 2050.

The Field to Market coalition offers an online calculator to help producers assess their use of land, energy and water, greenhouse gas emissions and soil loss and explore various scenarios that may help further improve their use of natural resources.

The coalition also undertakes and distributes extensive research about agricultural sustainability metrics over time.