Call or fax your congressperson today. No, really. Do it.

I know, I know, even we Ethicureans have Farm Bill fatigue, from following the various funding flip-flops and internecine struggles. It doesn’t make it any easier when even sustainable agriculture groups we respect disagree on arcane points. But encouraging conservation is one topic that everyone is rallying around, and asking for the support of concerned eaters — yeah, that’s you — as well as small farmers, activists, food-justice folks, and basically all Americans concerned about industrial farming’s effects on our soil, water, and air. Today is Conservation Call-In Day about the Food and Farm Bill, and we seriously need to get critical mass on at least this important point. The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, along with American Farmland Trust and other national conservation and environment organizations, have all sent out emails asking you to call your senators today (Wednesday, Oct. 17, but hey, if you miss it, you can call up to Oct. 23).

Ask them to provide at least $5 billion more for conservation in the farm bill, including $2 billion for the Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program. And if they ask why, tell them because Congress cut twice that amount from the program in the last two years, and it’s critical that it be available to farmers in all 50 states to counterbalance, in a tiny way, the siren call of ethanol. And because it’s a friggin’ drop in the bucket compared to corn subsidies. Add whatever other things are important to you about the Farm Bill — supporting small farmers, funding for organic research, a school-lunch program that isn’t a garbage disposal for overproduced commodities — but be sure to make the point that even in this draconian budget climate, they gotta support this piddly amount of funding for conservation.

The American Farmland Trust has set up a page where you can quickly find your senator’s office phone number. SAC has a link to a Word document (sigh) with a more complete background on what’s at stake and a list of the key senators on the Ag Committee. I’ve posted it, and those senators’ contact info with fax numbers, after the jump.

Call, don’t email. From what I’ve heard, the live, real-time voice of a concerned citizen, trembling with passion and nervousness, has a much bigger impact than a cookiecutter action e-mail.


October 6, 2007

(Posted from this Word document.)


The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin its markup of the 2007 farm bill on October 23.  Basic funding decisions have been discussed by Senators on the Committee during informal meetings that have already taken place.  In the course of these meetings, it has become increasingly clear that funding for conservation is getting the short end of the stick relative to other sections of the bill.  The funding levels currently being discussed by Committee Members are far lower than what is needed for a decent conservation title.

It is vital at this critical stage of the debate to rally support for increased funding for conservation in general and the Conservation Security Program (CSP) in particular.  The continuing pre-markup jockeying that is underway right now will determine what programs and what reforms will and will not receive consideration and support by the Committee.  

The good news is that Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin’s proposed Conservation Title expands support for working lands conservation policy through a new program that continues, improves and streamlines the CSP while fostering closer coordination between the CSP and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the other major working lands conservation program.  The combination and coordination of the two programs is being referred to as the Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program, or CSIP, in the Harkin bill.

Under this new CSIP “umbrella” both EQIP and CSP will be available annually on a nationwide basis.  Like its predecessor, the new CSP program will support farmers who improve and maintain farming systems that provide public benefits including cleaner air and streams, healthy soil, wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and energy conservation.  Unlike the current CSP program, however, it will be regularly available to all producers each year through a continuous sign-up and ranking process.  The coordination of CSP and EQIP through CSIP will result in ‘one-stop shopping’ for farmers and ranchers seeking working lands conservation assistance.

Annual, nationwide availability, however, will only happen if the program is provided adequate funding.  The combined program needs at least $2 billion in new funding over the next five years of the new farm bill in order to serve farmers in all 50 states.  This increase is actually equal to just 40 percent of the $5 billion in funding for CSP and EQIP that Congress has shortsightedly cut from the two programs over the past 4 years.  

Despite the relatively modest request for a $2 billion increase in working lands conservation funding for the next 5 years, many Senators on the Committee have so far been unwilling to support it.  Concerned citizens have until October 23 to convince those Senators that at least $2 billion more funding is needed for working lands conservation so that farmers and ranchers in all parts of the country have a fair opportunity to participate and help protect the environment.


Time is of the essence.  If your Senator is on the Agriculture Committee (see list of Members and their contact information below) call and ask for their legislative aide that works on agriculture.  If the agriculture aide is available, talk to them about your support for the updated CSP proposal.  If the aide is unavailable, leave a short message of support, along with your name and phone number, on the aide’s voice mail or with the receptionist.

If you prefer to write, fax a brief letter of support, addressed to the Senator, and remember to include your name and address and contact information.   The fax numbers are listed below.

The message is simple.  I am a constituent and am calling to urge Senator _________ to support $2 billion in new funding for the Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program (CSIP), including the new and improved Conservation Security Program.  We need an increased commitment to conservation on working lands and an expansion of the CSP program.  Without this increase, the farm bill will be a failure.


The new Comprehensive Stewardship Incentives Program (CSIP) combines the two leading working lands conservation programs – the Conservation Security Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – into an integrated program that improves the conservation benefits and cost effectiveness of each current program.  Farmers will be able to apply at one time for stewardship enhancement payments through the CSP and/or for conservation cost-share through EQIP.  By coordinating the two programs, program delivery will be improved and streamlined.  

The new CSIP will make both of the existing programs available to producers on an annual basis anywhere in the country at any time of year.  Both parts of the integrated program will include conservation ranking criteria to determine which contract offers will be accepted.  Farmers not currently meeting the stewardship threshold for CSP participation will be able to use cost share or incentive payments from EQIP to help reach the higher environmental baseline for CSP participation.  Farmers utilizing resource-conserving crop rotations or managed rotational grazing or other approaches that achieve multiple resource benefits will receive additional ranking points toward CSP participation.  In both EQIP and CSP, producers who can use the assistance to reach higher stewardship levels and solve resource and environmental problems will receive priority.

Under the new CSP part of CSIP there are no tiers or levels of participation, all participants must enroll their entire farming operation, all contracts are for five years, new conservation practices and activities are scheduled during the original enrollment rather than in later year contract modifications, and there is only one type of payment – the stewardship enhancement payment.  Those changes remove nearly all of the complexity of the current CSP structure.

USDA will prescribe stewardship thresholds for all resources of concern and each state will choose priority resources of concern for the different regions within their state.  All participants must be at or above the threshold for at least one priority resource of concern prior to enrollment and must agree to reach or exceed the threshold for all priority resources of concern during the first 5-year contract period.  Contracts may be renewed for new 5-year periods if they have been successfully maintained and if necessary and feasible new conservation activities are added under the new contract.  

An Organic Conversion component is included under the EQIP part of the program to provide funds for technical and financial assistance for transition.  New and existing certified organic farming systems will receive special consideration in the CSP part of the program.

To run the new program effectively and reduce contract proposal rejection rate, the new CSIP proposal requires approximately $2 billion in new funding above baseline levels over the next 5 years, a significant amount but far less than the approximately $5 billion which has be cut from CSP and EQIP during the past 6-year farm bill cycle.  At current funding levels, farmer demand for conservation assistance far outstrips available dollars.  At least partial restoration of funding — promised to farmers in the last farm bill but cut by Congress and the Administration in the intervening years — is badly needed to set the programs on a better course for the coming years.







Tom Harkin (IA) – Chair

Mark Halverson



Patrick Leahy (VT)

Brian Baenig



Kent Conrad (ND)

John Fuher



Max Baucus (MT)

Brandon Willis



Blanche Lincoln (AR)

Robert Holifield



Debbie Stabenow (MI)

Chris Adamo



Ben Nelson (NE)

Jonathan Coppess



Ken Salazar (CO)

Brendan McGuire



Sherrod Brown (OH)

Joe Shultz



Robert Casey, Jr. (PA)

Kasey Gillette



Amy Klobuchar (MN)

Hilary Meggin Bolea








Saxby Chambliss (GA) -  
   Ranking Member

Martha Scott Poindexter



Richard Lugar (IN)

Aaron Whitesel



Thad Cochran (MS)

West Higginbothom



Mitch McConnell (KY)

Allison Thompson



Pat Roberts (KS)

Mike Seyfert



Lindsey Graham (SC)

Laura Bauld



Norman Coleman (MN)

Tony Eberhard



Michael Crapo (ID)

Staci Lancaster



John Thune (SD)

Brendon Plack



Chuck Grassley (IA)

Amanda Taylor



One Responseto “Call or fax your congressperson today. No, really. Do it.”

  1. Jack says:

    Side comment: I could have sworn that California has a significant amount of agriculture. But neither of our senators is on this committee. Meanwhile, some states have two. It’s not right, I tell you…it’s just not right!