This report is the last in the SWCS’s series of “Measure Up” reports that compared alternative farm bills to the recommendations in our report. It also marks the transition to their work on implementation of the conservation provisions.
The main finding in the report is that the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (FSRI 2002) falls short of achieving the vision articulated by workshop participants as outlined in the “Seeking Common Ground” report. The failure to fundamentally reform farm programs is the law’s most serious shortcoming. Despite its shortcomings, the law creates the greatest opportunity for conservation on private land since 1985. The policies, priorities, and initiatives that guide implementation of the law’s conservation provisions will determine what taxpayers and agricultural producers harvest from this opportunity. The decisions made by USDA officials during implementation could be as important as the decisions members of Congress made in passing FSRI 2002.
SWCS is just beginning an intensive analysis of the opportunities to shape implementation of the conservation provisions in ways that maximize the pay off to taxpayers and producers. At this early stage, however, five cross-cutting opportunities stand out as particularly promising. They are:
- Build an effective technical services infrastructure.
- Encourage collective action in key locations.
- Link EQIP with conservation buffers.
- Ensure conservation drives programs rather than programs driving conservation.
- Ground-truth the next generation of farm and conservation programs.
The SWCS will now shift its focus to providing more detailed recommendations on how USDA can take advantage of these opportunities as implementation of FSRI 2002 proceeds. Hope you find the report helpful-thanks for all your support.