Can Farm Policy Do More to Help North Carolina Farmers - And the Environment? Assessing Farmer Support for Conservation Programs in the Farm Bill
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This year, Congress is renewing our national farm policy in a piece of legislation known as the federal Farm Bill. The most recent Farm Bill, the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, increased funding for conservation programs, but the majority of its dollars continue to subsidize producers of commodity crops. In North Carolina, 77 percent of farmers are not eligible for traditional subsidies, but instead produce a wide diversity of farm products. As a result, many environmental and agricultural groups are asking if farm policies can do more to help NC farmers get their fair share of federal funding. This study examines conservation policy options using a survey to gather farmer preferences for conservation provisions in the Farm Bill. Survey results showed farmers are most concerned about energy efficiency and resources such as soil and water on their land. The results also suggest there is a strong support for conservation programs and that a vast majority of farmers favor financial and technical assistance to address conservation goals. Many farmers felt that Farm Bill programs that assisted with soil erosion prevention, protected water quality, or created wildlife habitat would be useful in protecting or improving their farm’s resources. I suggest that new farm policy should increase overall funding for several Farm Bill conservation programs, especially since cost and out of pocket expenses were the most significant barriers to implementing conservation practices. The NRCS and the Farm Service Agency should focus on educating more farmers about conservation programs and collaborate with farmers, extension agents, and non-profits to reach consensus on conservation goals and develop plans that are more efficient.
DepartmentNicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences
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