Passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 represents the single most significant commitment of resources toward conservation on private lands in the nation's history.

In the one year anniversary since President Bush signed the legislation on May 13, 2002, significant work has been accomplished toward the achieved goal of improving the environment and conservation of natural resources.

The new legislation responds to the broad range of emerging natural resource challenges faced by the Nation's farmers and ranchers. These include soil erosion, wetlands, wildlife habitat, and farmland protection. As with prior legislation, the current farm bill provides benefits from numerous conservation programs that were either re-authorized or newly enacted in response to expressed environmental concerns.

Eligible landowners have the opportunity to apply for various cost-share, rental, or incentive payments in conjunction with implementing a balanced conservation program on their working lands. In addition, the 2002 farm bill ensures greater access to programs by new landowners; minority, limited resource, and female farmers and ranchers; Indian tribes; and those that might be traditionally underserved.

Implementing the Conservation Provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill is the responsibility of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

According to Dr. Larry D. Butler, state conservationist for NRCS in Texas, “We are committed to delivering conservation programs to the landowners and operators in Texas. This will be done by our NRCS field and technical staffs in conjunction with our traditional conservation partners — local soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs).

“Using the locally led process of setting local priorities to address local resource issues, NRCS will provide the leadership with our partners to help farmers and ranchers conserve our valuable resources. We will deliver on our commitment.”

Historically, NRCS is the non-regulatory, technical arm of USDA.

Conservation programs administered by NRCS emphasize sustainable agriculture while protecting the overall quality of life and natural resources.

Since the first year implementation of the 2002 farm bill, NRCS in Texas has accomplished the following environmental benefits:

  • The Environmental Quality Incentives Program provided conservation program assistance on about 723,700 acres through 880 contracts

  • The Wetland Reserve Program provided restoration of wetlands on approximately 8,900 acres through 29 contracts.

  • The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program provides incentives to develop fish and wildlife habitat on about 22,200 acres through 16 program contracts.

These programs and others are making a difference on the Texas landscape by encouraging landowners to become stewards of the land and making a positive difference in protecting our natural resources.

“All Texans have a stake in conservation,” Butler said. “Everyone benefits from good conservation — whether you are a landowner or homeowner, farmer, rancher, or shop keeper. Our working lands provide us with food, fiber, recreation, and scenic beauty.

“They also provide us with the natural filter for cleaning our water, air, and enhancing our environment. The conservation partnership is striving to make ‘Conservation Across America’ really mean something to every Texan.”

For more information, please contact: H. Harold Bryant, state public affairs specialist, harold.bryant@tx.usda.gov