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Senate Ag gets competing conservation advice

When the Senate Agriculture Committee meets Tuesday to consider the conservation title of the farm bill, members will have received separate letters from farm and conservation groups and a report from the Environmental Working Group calling for tying crop insurance coverage to conservation compliance.

In one letter written Friday, 10 major farm groups wrote Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kan., that they support the conservation title of the farm bill that the agriculture committees sent to the joint committee on deficit reduction known as the supercommittee.

Although the text of that proposal has not been released, the groups said, “That framework, as we understand it, contained provisions strongly supported by the farmers our organizations represent: simplification, flexibility and consolidation.”

The groups noted that they particularly support programs on working lands. The letter was signed by the American Farm Bureau Federation and nine crop commodity groups.

Then today, 643 conservation, farm and forestry groups sent Stabenow, Roberts, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., a letter that said the proposal sent to the supercommittee “demonstrates that the conservation title can continue to meet vital national needs while sharing in budget reductions,” but stressing a wider range of conservation goals than the major farm groups.

In its report released today, EWG said that conservation programs have been losing ground in recent years and that the “conservation compact” needs to be restored.