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Reconsider CSP reductions

ST. PETER, Minn. -- The U.S. House recently proposed to drastically cut the federal agriculture budget in an overall plan to reduce spending. Unfortunately, these shortsighted and poorly considered cuts target family farm and conservation programs.

ST. PETER, Minn. -- The U.S. House recently proposed to drastically cut the federal agriculture budget in an overall plan to reduce spending. Unfortunately, these shortsighted and poorly considered cuts target family farm and conservation programs.

I am one of 1,500 Minnesota farmers who has been awarded a contract under the Conservation Stewardship Program -- in my opinion one of the wisest allocations of federal dollars for securing conservation on working farmland.

The proposal to cut $39 million from the CSP likely would result in USDA defaulting on contracts with farmers. Farmers still would be required to fulfill their obligations in the contract, but when and if they get paid for their activities would be questionable.

In the face of budget deficits, this proposal may be penny wise, but it is pound foolish and underhanded.

Per-acre payments for CSP contracts are tied to environmental outcomes -- not just benefiting farmers -- but all of us. With the growing pressures on farmland, CSP is needed. We can't just shovel inputs at an increasingly monoculture dominated landscape and expect it to respond like the gas pedal on our four-wheel-drive pickup. History has shown that we are capable of diminishing the productivity of our agricultural lands -- just look to the Dust Bowl or the growing hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Considering cuts

Agriculture will be required to shoulder cuts as budgets move forward, but these cuts must be wisely considered. Congress should look to the commodity title direct payments for savings. Direct payments, which cost more than $5 billion a year, represent the no-strings-attached historic entitlement we receive just for being farmers.

It is unbelievable that direct payments have escaped all cuts -- especially at a time of robust grain prices.

Direct payments are the first place Congress should look to cut wasteful, unproductive spending.

The health of our natural resources and ecosystems is closely tied to agriculture, and a long-term conservation approach is needed to ensure the protection of these resources that sustain us all. This is what CSP promises to do so well and why it is needed.

I urge our representatives to oppose any cuts to CSP, deal with cuts to agriculture in a fair, responsible manner and look to the 2012 farm bill with an eye towards the long-term viability of our agriculture's future.

Editor's Note: Nuessmeier is a diversified crop and livestock farmer from St. Peter, Minn.

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