U of I urges Farm Bill research focus on water, risk partnerships
The next farm bill could play a key role in targeting voluntary “best practices” for both ag water quality and farm risk management, according to Terrance McLennand, U of I associate director of federal relations.
Published: Jun 19, 2012
At last week’s Illinois Ag Legislative Roundtable, McLennand stressed the value of a flexible, solidly funded farm research title in fostering regional partnerships in a variety of areas.
He underlined the importance of farm bill resources for “critical conservation areas,” focusing on surface and ground water management. To date, USDA-backed initiatives have been largely localized in small or mid-sized watersheds, he said.
Midwest farmers are concerned about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency imposing nutrient management-water quality standards, similar to those being imposed in the eastern Chesapeake Bay, in the Mississippi River Basin. McLennand and Co. see the merit instead of a “consortium-based” approach that helps equip communities to implement truly effective, cost-efficient stewardship strategies.
“What we’ve proposed, in conjunction with other land grants in Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, is looking at a ‘great rivers’ or a large watershed database –- a much larger base of research data collection,” McLennand told FarmWeek.
“We then use that data to create best practices that could be shared with communities on a voluntary basis. Communities, agricultural areas, and farmers could utilize practices which fit their needs and local circumstances.”
Lawmakers could help foster that approach by broadening USDA grant programs and grant eligibility criteria to include regional consortia, he said.
A similar approach could be applied –- with farm bill support -– to farm risk management strategies, McLennand suggested. He argues USDA support could enable farmers faced with farm program cutbacks to better tap into U of I’s “recognized expertise in ag economics and ag finance” and relationships with Chicago commodity exchanges.
Development of centralized, diverse risk management practices could help crop sectors and the communities they support “remain profitable and viable and sustainable.”
Following discussions with congressional staffers –- including representatives of Illinois’ three House Ag Committee members -- McLennand noted “broad-based support” for the proposal in both the House and Senate.
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