What if you were a farmer who wanted to apply a conservation practice on your land but didn’t have the money to do so? Since most government conservation cost-share programs require the practice to be completed before receiving any reimbursement, you’d probably be out of luck. In fact, many American farmers who need and want to implement conservation measures on their land, do not have the “up front” funds available to make this happen. Luckily, there is a new solution.
On September 2nd, the Farm Services Agency announced the rule creating the new conservation loan program, providing farmers with up front financing to install needed environmentally sound measures on their land. Either a direct loan or a loan guarantee is available to implement a conservation project according to an NRCS approved conservation plan. After implementation, any financial assistance from USDA would be used to repay a portion of the loan, leaving the farmer to repay his or her share over the term of the loan. The program gives priority to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers as well as those owners or tenants wishing to convert to sustainable or organic production systems. Priority is also given to farmers establishing practices to comply with highly erodible land requirements. However, the program is open to all farmers to help address conservation needs on the landscape.
American Farmland Trust and our partners pushed very hard for this program during the 2008 farm bill and we are very pleased to see this program created in the law finally come to fruition though the USDA rulemaking process.
Secretary Vilsack describes the program:
“This will give farmers who want to implement conservation measures on their lands a chance to do so by providing assistance with their up-front costs,” said Vilsack. “In return, these producers will help to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and promote sustainable and organic agricultural practices.”
We see this as a great opportunity to attain more conservation on the ground across America. Since money is usually the primary impediment to implementing new conservation practices, we hope this program will break down that barrier for many farmers and free them to take the necessary steps to keep the land, water and our food healthy.