“The appropriations bill before Congress is risky and simply short-sighted when it comes to protecting our nation’s agricultural resources and a healthy future for America,” says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust. “Cutting over half a billion dollars in this year’s budget and targeting crucial and effective programs by another 20 percent or more in the 2012 budget is a dangerous step in the wrong direction, and we hope the Senate will restore some or all of these funds. Agriculture and conservation shouldn’t bear more than their fair share of cuts relative to other sectors.”

Scholl notes the recent media attention, including a New York Times story, underscores the challenges facing America’s farmers. “Agriculture will be pressed to feed a population of over 10 billion by the end of the century, which is no small feat. We’ve seen evidence of how severely agricultural production will be affected by the rapidly changing environmental conditions brought on by global climate change,” says Scholl. “Together, this is a truly daunting prospect. Our policymakers must address these issues sooner rather than later.”

“Protecting the nation’s supply of farmland is key to national food security,” Scholl adds.  “In the last 25 years, more than 23 million acres of farm and ranch land—an area roughly the size of Indiana— have been converted out of agricultural use to roads, strip malls and other types of sprawling development.” 

Coupled with the need to safeguard our nation’s food supply is the need to support the contributions of farmland to the health of our environment. “In addition to supplying food, fiber, and biofuels, farmland is a tremendous natural resource, providing filters for groundwater, clean air, wildlife habitat and greenhouse gas sequestration,” Scholl says. “We have much work to do to support on-farm stewardship of the land. It begins with adequate funding for conservation programs because they are critical to our ability to feed our country and our world.”

“We look forward to working with Congress to enhance conservation programs and policies to achieve the greatest public benefit for every dollar spent.” Scholl adds. “But with programs that are chronically under-funded, our first priority must be to secure the resources needed to engage as many farmers as possible in this critical work.”