More than 30 Indiana farmers, conservation advocates and sportsmen and women filled the home of Shad and Sara Schenck on March 12 to tell U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) why the Farm Bill is a crucial tool for their properties, wildlife and bottom lines.
Ray McCormick, a farmer from Vincennes, said he participates in Farm Bill programs because he noticed the impact to wildlife. “The motivation for me was the loss of habitat,” McCormick said. “The ducks and geese returning to these habitats are the rewards of conservation.”
The roundtable was organized by Sen. Donnelly and Ducks Unlimited. The Farm Bill represents the largest and one of the most important conservation investments on private land in the country. More than $25 billion has been invested over the last five years on federal conservation Farm Bill programs.
Roundtable guests told Sen. Donnelly, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, how Farm Bill programs provide them with tools to improve their farming operations while protecting wildlife habitat and improving water quality.
Programs like the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) are voluntary programs that can act as a safety net for farmers.
The Schencks have about 60 acres of their property enrolled in Farm Bill programs. Shad toured Sen. Donnelly and participants around his farm, giving them an up-close look at conservation in action.
“It was a great meeting, to highlight to the public the importance of Farm Bill programs and how much these programs impact the world we live in,” Shad said. “As our population grows and food demand grows, we’ve got the opportunity right in front of us, through the Farm Bill, to keep conservation in place.”
Farm Bill practices produce healthier wetlands, prairies and waterways, which mean quality opportunities for the hunting community. Sportsmen and women contribute more than $887 billion every year to the outdoor recreational economy, and benefit greatly from Farm Bill efforts.
“It would be more detrimental to society than many realize if these programs were cut,” Shad said.
Key agriculture conservation programs rely on the voluntary involvement from farmers, ranchers and landowners around the country. Since more than 70 percent of land in the lower 48 states is privately owned, nationwide conservation efforts and collaboration with partners in agriculture are key.
Zach Cain, a farmer from Darlington, told the senator how local water quality has improved because of practices like buffer strips. “We really are doing a lot of good by reducing our soil erosion,” he said.
The event was Sen. Donnelly’s 11th Farm Bill listening session around the state.
“I have always believed a good farm bill is one written to work for Hoosiers,” he said. “Indiana farmers are among the best at conserving our soil, water and wildlife habitat and it is always great to get on a farm and see their work first-hand.”