Issue: Conservation shouldn’t cost a farmer money — it should pay its own way. However, improving habitat, soil, water, and air quality on a farm often have considerable upfront cost. Local, state and federal agencies approach conservation of natural resources with a mixture of regulatory and voluntary approaches. Voluntary conservation programs offered by these agencies are numerous, but complicated, and demand for enrollment in conservation programs often exceeds funding.
Action: As the former Chief of the Nation’s largest private lands conservation agency — the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) — SCS founder Bruce Knight now routinely assists clients in improving access to conservation program. Services have included education and outreach to farmers (including dairy, wine grapes, and cotton farmers), as well as crop advisors about how to better utilize conservation programs. For example, SCS has done extensive work with the cotton industry to assist its producer members in understanding and taking full advantage of conservation program opportunities in order to make conservation work for them. Read more >
In addition, SCS routinely advises clients on opportunities to comment on USDA and other agency rules and regulations. SCS has improved access to conservation programs for traditional commodity farmers, livestock producers, and specialty crop producers, as well as technology providers.
Issue: Consumers are increasingly asking about the sustainability of buying choices, and the discussion of sustainability is occurring from the farmer’s market to the corporate board room. However, sustainability concepts are often subjective, lacking clear market price signals or accountability in the marketplace and requiring additional costs at the farm gate.
Action: SCS has been advising the dairy industry on common sense measures that can be pursued to improve the sustainability of milk and milk products. Services have included improving access to USDA conservation programs and expanding federal support for
sustainability research needs. SCS approaches sustainability services with a fact driven, common sense approach. Improvements in sustainability must pay their own way — either in the market place with consumer demand or on the farm with cost savings from energy or production input savings.
Issue: While Congress passes laws, the real work begins after the bill is signed into law, and it is left to the Administration to actually implement. Food, agriculture and conservation operate under a myriad of rules, policies and regulations through a variety of agencies. EPA regulates the impact a farmer’s actions may have on the environment; USDA conservation rules influence which conservation tools may be available to producers; and USDA and FDA regulate the safety and soundness of the food as it moves to the marketplace. Regardless of agency, the regulatory process is slow, cumbersome and complicated.
Action: SCS clients have sought advice on ways to improve, change, accelerate, and when necessary, halt regulations. As USDA Undersecretary for Marketing and Regulatory programs and as Chief of the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Knight often found himself as a “reluctant regulator” but being the deciding official on hundreds of regulations on animal identification, biotechnology, marketing orders, promotion programs, conservation programs, grain standards, sanitary and phytosanitary border issues. This has given Knight a unique perspective on regulatory process within USDA as well as the interagency review process. SCS is prepared to make sure that its clients are treated fairly in the regulatory process.
Issue: Due to government intervention, policies and regulations, farm and food policy is closely linked to the passage of the “farm bill,” farm legislation that is reauthorized every five to seven years. The current farm bill passed in 2008 andÂ expired on September 30, 2012. This legislation is usually bipartisan in nature and will reflect the perceived needs on issues as diverse as nutrition, farm supports, crop insurance, forestry, trade, nutrition and conservation. It is anticipated that the upcoming farm bill will be contentious due to an expected decline in budget availability.
Action: SCS founder Bruce Knight has been a participant in the farm and conservation policy considerations of every farm bill since 1985. He has drafted legislation, promulgated and implemented rules and advocated for change. SCS is prepared to steward clients through the upcoming farm bill deliberations with equal fervor.
Issue: One of the most far-reaching and challenging issues of our time surrounds climate change. What will be the impacts on agriculture and food production? Is it caused by man or part of a larger shift? Can actions by one individual or even one country make a difference in mitigating the impacts? What will be the research requirements to foster food production in the future in a scenario of greater climatic variability?
Action: SCS has been providing strategic advice and counsel to the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) regarding climate change policy, natural resources and sustainability. In this role, Knight has represented BPC in scores of outreach sessions with agriculture leaders on one of the toughest, most politically volatile issues challenging farmers and ranchers. SCS brings to the issue a unique ability to listen to all sides of the debate and help groups find common sense, mutually agreeable paths forward. Read more >