Supporting Agricultural Conservation Programs

The intensification of farming has artificially drained and compacted the land increasing flooding throughout the nation.  In fact, runoff from farms is the leading source of impairments to surveyed rivers and lakes and is a major contributor to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia problem. Although these challenges are real, the conservation programs under NRCS continue to be underfunded.

In our changing climate, farmers are uniquely poised to provide cost-effective green infrastructure solutions, such as protecting and restoring rivers, floodplains, wetlands, and upland areas that can reduce the risk of flooding and keep people out of harm’s way. A 5 percent cut would severely impede our ability to protect the future of our nation’s rivers, floodplains, wetlands, and upland areas. Under the threat of a changing climate, if anything, we should be redoubling our efforts. 

Funding our most effective agricultural conservation programs – including the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, the technical assistance, environmental improvements, stewardship, water resources, easement, and community assistance programs – is needed now more than ever.

Simple conservation practices such as riparian buffers, floodplain easements, and reduced tillage can slow down and reduce surface water runoff nearly in half, increasing the amount of absorption into the ground. 

The Emergency Watershed Protection Program (EWP) provides an alternative to farmers with frequently flooded and damaged farmlands and can save taxpayers up to $1.4 million each year by eliminating the need for future crop loss payouts and land or building restoration on frequently flooded cropland.

Citizens and politicians alike understand the importance of these programs to reduce risk of flooding, increase water quality, and improve wildlife habitat.  Iowa State Senator Hogg recently tour conservation programs in Iowa “If we had 1,000 projects like the CREP project in Floyd County, or the riparian farmland project in Bremer County, in the Cedar River basin, we could go a long way toward reducing peak flood events and preventing millions, if not billions, in flood damage. In addition, we would reap significant benefits for habitat, recreation, rural development and improved water quality.” Hogg said.