(Ankeny, Iowa – June 23, 2020) The Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), the professional society for those who practice and advance the science and art of natural resource conservation, calls on Congress to recognize the critical role of agricultural conservation as they consider stimulus and infrastructure packages to address the COVID-19 pandemic. SWCS has sent letters to the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the US House of Representatives Agriculture Committee reminding legislators that conservation is a source of American jobs and living infrastructure.
SWCS asks that during this time of high unemployment, the hundreds of open and unfilled positions in the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) be quickly filled. The letter calls for “expanded direct-hire flexibility for the USDA” to bring on conservation professionals to provide conservation technical assistance and “work hand-in-hand with farmers, ranchers, and landowners to create resilient working lands.”
“These conservation professionals are an important lifeline for producers right now,” says Catherine DeLong, special projects and policy director for SWCS. “Ninety-eight percent of NRCS staff work outside of Washington, DC, assisting farmers and ranchers in making long-term decisions for their land. They offer expertise as well as an access point to federal programs that aid producers in maintaining the resiliency of their land. By filling these positions, the USDA now has an opportunity to invest in this human capital.”
Additionally, the letter asks for farm bill conservation programs like the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to be fully funded in order to support landowners and producers during this difficult time. The letter points out that these programs are critically underfunded, and also calls for “future infrastructure packages to include construction and maintenance funds for the Watershed Operations and Flood Prevention and Watershed Rehabilitation programs, which provide on-the-ground infrastructure that protects downstream communities.”
“Conservation practices are infrastructure,” says DeLong. “They provide a proactive and cost-effective method for protecting our drinking water supplies, mitigating flood impacts, and buffering climate extremes. These conservation programs provide a fully-formed structure to add this critical infrastructure to our landscape while also financially supporting producers who are responsibly managing their land for societal benefits. It’s a win-win.”
For seventy-five years, the Soil and Water Conservation Society has been the premier international organization for professionals who practice and advance the science and art of natural resource conservation. We believe sustainable land and water management is essential to the continued security of the earth and its people. Our goal is to cultivate an organization of informed, dynamic individuals whose contributions create a bright future for agriculture, the environment, and society. The Soil and Water Conservation Society is headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa, with chapters across the United States and Canada.
For More Information:
Catherine DeLong, Special Projects and Policy Director
Soil and Water Conservation Society
515-289-2331 ext. 113