November 20, 2017

Farm Bill Proposal: Responding to the Grassroots

A Farm Bill Proposal: Responding to the Grassroots
Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2001


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Executive Summary
Conservation Program and Policy Reform
Farm Program and Policy Reform
Putting the Pieces Together

Executive Summary

The next farm bill must be about more than the price of corn—or wheat, or cotton, or rice, or any other agricultural commodity. It must be about caring for the land and keeping the people who work the land on the land. That, in brief, is what the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) heard in five workshops that brought members of the agricultural, water resource, and fish and wildlife communities together to develop conservation provisions for the 2002 farm bill.


Policymakers face fundamental choices as they begin reauthorizing the farm bill. Those choices go to the heart of what should be expected from conservation and farm policy. There is growing public skepticism about how well traditional commodity-based subsidies work to keep people on the land—and to care for it. Conservation could and should become the basis for a new vision of agricultural policy, a policy that is truly open to all of agriculture and built upon a solid foundation—the unique status and responsibility of farmers and ranchers as the caretakers of this nation’s land, water, and wildlife.


At a minimum, conservation policy and programs must be strengthened to continue their traditional service to agriculture and updated to address the environmental challenges that now confront farmers and ranchers. But settling for the minimum would be a mistake at this juncture. Instead, reforms to conservation policy and programs should be coupled with a new vision for farm policy itself. Traditional farm subsidies should be balanced with a new option based on land stewardship—an option that pays producers to invest their land, labor, and capital to produce a better environment.


Workshop participants mapped out a continuum of reforms to move conservation to the center of farm policy. SWCS took that map and developed specific recommendations that, in our best professional judgment, hold the most promise for addressing the hopes and concerns of the workshop participants.

Suggested Citation
Soil and Water Conservation Society. 2001. A Farm Bill Proposal: Responding to the Grassroots. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society. 

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