Most agricultural conservation funding and technical assistance resources are provided by the federal government and authorized by the Farm Bill, which expires at the end of 2018. Congress will likely attempt to pass a new Farm Bill prior to the 2018 mid-term elections, with Minnesota’s Congressional delegation playing a strong role in setting these policies.
As directed by the Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is currently preparing a feasibility study and plan for a Working Lands Watershed Restoration Program – a program to provide incentives for landowners to plant perennial and cover crops that will improve water quality. As part of that plan, BWSR is required to produce “an assessment of the opportunity to leverage federal funds … and [make] recommendations on how to maximize the use of federal funds for assistance to establish perennial crops.” Recognizing that there may be important opportunities to not only leverage existing programs, but also advocate for changes to the Farm Bill that support the establishment of continuous living cover, Environmental Initiative is compiling information on behalf of BWSR on:
- Existing Farm Bill programs that relate to working lands and perennial cropping systems, including conservation title programs and other policies that impact farm decision making.
- Existing Farm Bill programs’ ability to be leveraged to support a working lands program in Minnesota, including the barriers in the existing federal Farm Bill that may discourage the establishment of perennials and other living cover crops.
- Potential changes to existing Farm Bill programs that would increase their ability to support a Minnesota working lands program.
This information is being gathered through conversations with agricultural industry stakeholders, non-profits working on agriculture and conservation, and state agencies. These one-on-one and group conversations will be used to help identify shared Farm Bill conservation priorities across a range of Minnesota stakeholder interests and to inform the Administration and Legislature on high-potential opportunities to support working lands and water quality through the Federal Farm Bill.