Conservation Provisions of the 2007 Farm Bill: Opportunities to Inform Debate
Soil and Water Conservation Society, 2005
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Soil and Water Conservation Society. 2005. Conservation Provisions of the 2007 Farm Bill: Opportunities to Inform Debate. Ankeny, IA: Soil and Water Conservation Society.
The CEAP Blue Ribbon Panel’s report of preliminary findings, released in March 2005, included the following key findings:
“The panel believes the need to supply policymakers, program managers, and the conservation community with the information they need to manage and/or propose reforms to conservation programs is greater than ever. Demands to ensure that conservation funding is used effectively have intensified given the 80 percent increase in funding provided by the 2002 farm bill. At the same time, coming federal fiscal year budgets are expected to be tight. Competition for federal funds between conservation and other purposes, and among conservation programs themselves, will be intense. The panel hopes a rigorous debate¾if based on solid, science-based information¾can result in a stronger, more effective, and more efficient conservation effort.”
“The panel expects conservation to be central to the 2007 farm bill debate. Important decisions regarding conservation funding, program reform, and priorities will be made. Policymakers, program managers, and the conservation community will need credible, science-based information to make those decisions.”
Those findings led to this recommendation:¾“In the short term, USDA should redirect CEAP resources to produce assessments that will inform the 2007 farm bill conservation title debate.”
The panel’s report went on to recommend:
“USDA should quickly identify ’low-hanging fruit’¾opportunities to use the CEAP framework to inform the 2007 farm bill debate. USDA should also draw on datasets and assessment capabilities not formally considered part of CEAP, but that are underway both inside and outside of the Department. The panel concluded there are likely many examples of low-hanging fruit in the CEAP national assessment, watershed studies, and related efforts. The panel recommends a concerted effort to identify and take advantage of as many of those opportunities as possible.”
USDA subsequently requested the panel to help develop such a list of low-hanging fruit. Panel members first were asked this question: “What 3 to 5 questions would you really like answers to before the debate of the 2007 farm bill conservation provisions starts in earnest?” Panel members were not to worry about the feasibility of answering their questions or whether those questions were within the scope of CEAP. They were asked simply to think about what information would be most useful to them.
Panel members’ “wish lists” were then run through two screens to catch those ideas that could be implemented within 18 months and would provide policymakers, program managers, and members of the conservation community with the most useful information to inform the 2007 farm bill debate. This screening step was largely accomplished through a dialogue involving panel members, CEAP staff members from NRCS and ARS, and other federal agency staff liaisons during the panel’s May 4-5, 2005 meeting in Washington, D.C. This report attempts to capture the results of that dialogue and the panel’s deliberations in executive session.
The panel’s scope of inquiry was defined by the following CEAP-related activities:
1. CEAP national assessment activities: (a) cropland and CRP component and (b) wildlife and wetlands component
2. CEAP watershed studies
3. Agency performance reporting systems
Other assessment activities were briefly discussed during the panel’s meeting, but time and USDA’s charge to the panel did not allow for in-depth exploration of those activities.