In just four years American farmers and ranchers have voluntarily conserved 50 million acres of U.S. land through the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program. An additional 12.2 million acres were conserved just this year.
Land Stewardship Amongst Farmers and Ranchers
"Farmers and ranchers throughout the country are making USDA's voluntary Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) a major force for conservation," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. "The protection of natural resources through conservation programs such as CSP create outdoor and wildlife recreation opportunities that provide crucial jobs and bolster economic growth in rural American communities."
Through the program, farmers have already succeeded in conserving an area larger than Pennsylvania and South Carolina combined by meeting certain conservation guidelines. These guidelines, according to the USDA, include managing land with few signs of erosion, grass or woody buffer areas to intercept crop runoff, and scheduled water application based on soil moisture monitoring.
Farmers must commit to not only going through the conservation process on available land, but documenting it for a period of five years in exchange for compensation. “CSP participants will receive an annual land use payment for operation-level environmental benefits they produce. Under CSP, participants are paid for conservation performance: the higher the operational performance, the higher their payment.”
More to Be Done
While this is a step in the right direction, it's a small step, and there's much more to be done to conserve American farmlands. It's worth mentioning that farmers use five times as much weed killers on their crops then they did in 1997, according to The New York Times, causing dead zones where wildlife cannot thrive, while polluting our soil and groundwater.