With the 2018 Farm Bill in conference committee, a Virginia Tech researcher says it’s important to keep an eye on the overall level of conservation funding, which the House Bill cuts, to avoid hurting farm conservation efforts and undermining past progress.

“Funding cuts for conservation reduce the number of agricultural producers able to enroll in programs. There is already unmet demand to be able to enroll – or re-enroll -- in programs and provide conservation benefits to the American public on private land,” says Ashley Dayer, a conservation social scientist and assistant professor at Virginia Tech. “My research shows that when landowners are unable to re-enroll in programs many do not continue their conservation efforts when payments end.  We consider this a loss in sustained benefits to the American people of past conservation funding investments.”

“We need to remember that there were already funding cuts sustained in the 2014 Farm Bill—the first time in the history of the conservation title of the Farm Bill. Neither of these bills recovers those losses or provides new funding so seemingly positive changes within the two versions of the bill, including the increase in the acreage cap for the Conservation Reserve Program, require something else to give.”

Yet, both versions are considerably better than President Trump’s 2019 budget request which proposed slashing funding by about $13 billion over 10 years, Dayer said.

Dayer notes that there are some provisions in the two bills that farmers might favor.

“For example, the House bill allows grazing as a mid-contract management activity -an alternative to disking or burning -- without producers paying a penalty. This allows them to have forage for their cattle while also managing their grassland for conservation benefits,” she said.

About Ashley Dayer

Dayer’s research focuses on understanding people’s and organizations’ conservation behavior, especially related to private lands habitat conservation, human-wildlife conflict, endangered species management, and conservation funding. She was recently quoted by the New York Times about the 2018 Farm Bill.

Schedule an interview

To secure an interview with Dayer, contact Michael Stowe at mstowe@vt.eduor 540-231-2611.

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