Promoting sustainable agriculture: Iowa stakeholders’ perspectives on the US Farm Bill conservation programs
Arbuckle, J. Gordon
Arbuckle, J. Gordon
Farmers perceive a tension between short‐term profit and long‐term sustainability, which can be bridged by external investments in conservation. In the U.S., the Farm Bill plays an important role in providing this investment through conservation programs. Since the Farm Bill is influenced by various stakeholders, their perspectives tend to inform its programs and practices. We aim to understand influential stakeholders’ viewpoints on strengths and weaknesses of major conservation programs as a means for either incremental or transformative changes leading to policy improvements. Interviews were conducted with representatives from key stakeholder groups, including farmer and agribusiness groups, commodity groups, government agencies, and environmental NGOs. Results reveal that commodity group and agribusiness representatives maintain that current conservation programs have been effective at reducing soil erosion and propose incremental changes to them. Specific issues include simplifying the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), easing requirements attached to the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), avoiding excessive Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments to compete with tenant farmers for good agricultural lands, and preventing farmers from being out of compliance on highly erodible land. However, results also reveal that stakeholders now appear to be more concerned about water quality and nutrient management rather than soil erosion. Environmental NGOs and research groups present transformative ideas to address this issue. At the farm level, they promote both infrastructural improvements and conservation‐conscious management practices. At the landscape level, many stakeholders recognize the need for holistic, scalable approaches to soil and water quality conservation. However, interviewed stakeholders unanimously foresee incremental, not transformative, changes to Farm Bill conservation programs and policies.
This article is published as Medina, Gabriel, Catherine Isley, and J. Arbuckle. "Promoting sustainable agriculture: Iowa stakeholders’ perspectives on the US Farm Bill conservation programs." Environment, Development and Sustainability (2020). doi: 10.1007/s10668-019-00572-5. Posted with permission.