The National Grain and Feed Association has urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to downsize and significantly reform the Conservation Reserve Program.

In a statement submitted in response to a draft USDA supplemental environmental impact statement on future Conservation Reserve Program policy options, the association said it was “flawed, erroneous and short-sighted” to assess the program’s environmental benefits “in isolation and in a vacuum” without also considering the positive environmental benefits of other USDA conservation programs, modern agricultural tillage practices and existing conservation requirements imposed under USDA farm programs.

“The idling of productive land resources cuts off the economic multiplier inherent in crop, livestock and poultry production, thereby costing jobs and suffocating economic vitality in rural communities,” wrote NGFA President Kendell W. Keith.

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Of the three policy alternatives contained in USDA’s draft environmental assessment, the NGFA favored the option that would reduce the size of the Conservation Reserve Program to 24 million acres. But the NGFA encouraged USDA to allocate more than the 4 million acres called for under that policy option to targeted sign-ups of the most environmentally sensitive land.

The NGFA statement said reallocating some of the Conservation Reserve Program’s budget to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, which apply to working farmlands, would achieve greater conservation benefits than idling non-sensitive land under the Conservation Reserve Program.

The other two policy options offered in USDA’s draft environmental assessment both call for enrolling 32 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program.