The draft bill introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) would eradicate the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The Chairman’s draft farm bill would fold the best features of the CSP into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP). In total the draft bill would result in funding cuts for working lands conservation programs by 25% over 5 years and 20% over 10 years. The CSP and EQUIP are separate programs in order to enhance the sustainability of American agriculture. CSP focuses on helping farmers and ranchers implement conservation stewardship systems to address priority resource concerns on their land, while EQUIP provides cost-share assistance on a one-time basis to help producers implement conservation practices. The draft bill proposes adding “stewardship contracts” into EQUIP but eliminates comprehensive conservation approaches to whole farm stewardship and eliminates incentives for the most effective conservation practices. The next farm bill should focus on enhancing these conservation programs through benefits and program accessibility.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition produced a useful chart to compare the current CSP program standards to the enhanced EQUIP draft proposal. See how these bills compare here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/house-farm-bill-conservation/.