Michigan's conservation and agricultural leaders will meet May 1 to discuss the need to tie federal farm payments to conservation practices that protect the state's water, soils and wildlife habitat.
Sponsored by the Izaak Walton League of America, Michigan Voices for Good Food Policy, Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, and Michigan Farmers Union, the May 1 Michigan Farm Bill Conservation Summit will begin at 3 p.m. at the Kellogg Center, located at 219 S Harrison Rd in East Lansing.
Among the speakers leading the afternoon summit are Jim Goodheart of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, Steve Shine of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and Dr. Charles Nelson of the Michigan Waterfowl Management Plan Steering Committee. Senator Debbie Stabenow, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has also been invited to address the summit.
"With action on the federal farm bill in Washington DC moving forward, it is time to engage Michigan farmers, conservationists and regulators in a discussion of conservation compliance and how to enact effective conservation policy," says Bill Wenzel, agriculture program director for the Izaak Walton League of America.
Conservation compliance for federal crop insurance is one way the IWLA is exploring to increase conservation and save federal tax dollars that will protect wetlands, wildlife habitat and sensitive soils.
"Under the compliance provision in federal farm law, farmers who accept taxpayers' money would agree to provide basic stewardship of soil, water and wetlands," Wenzel says. "This requires no additional federal dollars; in fact, it can result in budgetary savings, cleaner water and improved wildlife habit."
"Without the link to conservation compliance, wetlands will be lost at an unacceptable rate. However, we have the ability to slow these losses by restoring the link between federal crop insurance subsidy benefits and conservation compliance, as well as establishing provisions to protect native grasslands ."
Conservation compliance has been shown to have saved an estimated 295 tons of soil per year, and protects an estimated 1.5 to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands from being drained. Re-establishing the link between conservation compliance and crop insurance premium subsidies would save approximately $55 million in federal spending over a ten year period. "In this era of shrinking budgets, this is a common sense approach to conservation," Wenzel says.
For more information about the Izaak Walton League's position on conservation review the IWLA's online Farm Bill Report at www.iwla.org/farmbill.
The May 1 Michigan Farm Bill Conservation Summit is free and open to the public. After a short local food reception at 5:30 pm, there will be a Citizens' Session with an overview of the Farm Bill, panel discussion including farmers and conservationists, and a brief advocacy training. Participants will learn how the Farm Bill impacts Michigan's soil, water, and wildlife, and how they can help shape sustainable food and farm policies.
To attend, please RSVP by April 30 by contacting Gwen Steel at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 649-1446.