Conservation programs received abundant funding under the 2008 farm law, and the National Cotton Council believes cotton producers would be wise to consider participating in these national efforts.
Why is the NCC touting participation?
We believe that quality conservation efforts not only improve the air, soil and water but can improve a producer’s bottom line. The new Conservation Stewardship Program, for example, pays participants for conservation performance – the higher the performance, the higher the payment. Producers get credit both for conservation measures they already have implemented and for new measures they agree to add. Many cotton producers already are employing practices that would make them eligible to participate and receive financial assistance.
In the coming years, conservation programs are expected to account for almost 30 percent of total spending on agricultural programs. It just makes environmental and economic sense for us to help our producer members determine which conservation programs would be beneficial to their operations and to better understand the programs’ requirements/enrollment processes.
How is the NCC helping?
After making presentations on 2008 farm law conservation programs and facilitating conservation workshops at the 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in January, the NCC began work on its “Conservation in Cotton Production” portal. The portal, now accessible from the NCC Web site’s home page at www.cotton.org, is a dynamic central information venue designed to raise producers’ awareness and use of federal conservation programs.
The NCC worked closely with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and with Bruce Knight, NRCS’ former Chief, to develop cotton specific conservation program fact sheets and short educational videos for the portal. There are videos and fact sheets on the Conservation Stewardship Program, Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and other easement programs. The videos include commentary from Knight as well as producers who have utilized these programs. In fact, the newest video, “Tips,” offers suggestions for improving producers’ odds of acceptance into these programs. For example, it encourages producers to: 1) check all programs before making a decision on which program to participate, 2) evaluate working with NRCS to develop a conservation plan for their operation, 3) know their local and state conservation districts’ priorities and 4) participate in their local conservation district.
What else is planned for the portal?
This page will be updated continually with the latest conservation news regarding sign-up deadlines and new programs offered through USDA. The NCC also is planning to add a link to the “Fieldprint Calculator” tool, a product of the “Field to Market” project. The Calculator allows growers to see their operations’ efficiency performance and to compare it with national and state performance averages.
Mark Lange is president and chief executive officer of the National Cotton Council of America. He and other NCC leaders contribute columns on this Cotton Farming page.
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