By now, most everyone is experiencing the impacts of the government shutdown in some shape or form. But one consequence that hasn’t received as much attention as it should, is the very real and serious impact this budget impasse--coupled with the uncertainty surrounding the expired Farm Bill-- is having on producers, landowners and the land, air, water and other natural resources they manage that serve as the foundation of our nation’s food supply.

Because many conservation district offices share office space with federal partners, these offices are closed due to this federal government shutdown. Almost one in every county across the U.S., conservation districts coordinate assistance from all available sources—public and private, local, state and federal—in an effort to develop locally-driven solutions to natural resource concerns. Conservation districts are critical in helping local people conserve land, water, forests, wildlife and related natural resources in their communities. The shutdown poses extreme challenges to getting conservation on the ground in communities across the country.

Currently, there are tens of thousands of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service enhancement payments waiting to be processed and sent to private landowners that, in good faith, installed enhancement conservation practices on their land, and we estimate there are more than 100,000 active Environmental Quality Incentives Program contracts stalled. This is all happening during the fall season – the best time of year to implement conservation practices while there is no production on the land. We believe there are hundreds of millions of dollars of conservation work—work intended to sustain our natural resource base and food supply for the future—on hold because of this political deadlock.

And, as if we needed one more reason for a Farm Bill, the lack of a bill means producers currently have no access to critical livestock disaster programs in times of need. Producers in Western South Dakota are feeling the impacts of this firsthand, as they’re reporting 20 to 50-percent of herd losses after getting hit with four feet of snow.

Congress’ lack of action, both on a budget and a Farm Bill, is putting local economies and our natural resource base at risk. Farmers, ranchers and landowners deserve to have long-term assurances and certainty to make wise decisions when it comes to the future sustainability of their land and their businesses. It’s time for the government to get back to work.

Earl Garber
National Association of Conservation Districts

Biography: Earl Garber, NACD President, is a licensed crop consultant and rice, soybean and hay producer from Louisiana. He started his involvement in conservation as a Soil Scientist, Soil Conservationist and District Conservationist with the USDA. He has been active on the Acadia Soil and Water Conservation District board of supervisors, in Southwestern Louisiana, since 1981. Garber recently served as the President of the Louisiana Association of Conservation Districts. He also held the position of Louisiana Board Member for the National Association of Conservation Districts before being newly elected to the Second Vice President Executive position.
Garber has his own farming operation which includes 550 acres of rice, soybeans, grain sorghum, timber and commercial hay production. Earl also provides daily service to area producers as a Louisiana licensed crop consultant and field services manager for G&H Seed Co. Garber and his wife, Janis Landry, live and farm in the Northwestern portion of Acadia parish, Louisiana.