Sen. Thune proposes new farm bill conservation program

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Farmers could have another land conservation option, under a new measure South Dakota Senator John Thune is introducing.

The proposal called the Soil Health Income Protection Program also known as SHIPP tackles soil health and farming of less productive land.

The farm bill expires in September 2018, but lawmakers are already getting to work on the next one.

“We think we are going to have to be thinking outside the box, we are going to have to be innovative," Sen. Thune (R-SD) said.

Thune is introducing a measure he'd like to see in the next farm bill. The SHIPP program would allow farmers to enroll as much as 15 percent of lower-producing cropland in the program for three to five years in exchange for a land rental payment and a two percent crop insurance discount.

“Farmers can put it in, they can take it out. They have to pay back the rental income if they take it out. It allows them greater flexibility in how they use the land as well," Thune explained.

This proposal is similar to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in which farmers also receive a rental payment, but CRP requires the land to be set aside for 10 to 15 years, as opposed to this program which is a shorter term alternative.

“It makes farmers take a look at land that that perhaps because of the soils and other pieces isn't real productive and it puts it away for conservation, but it does it in a short term way," said Lisa Richardson, the executive director of South Dakota Corn.

Richardson says her organization is still evaluating the proposal and hasn't endorsed it quite yet. She says she still has some questions.

"I'm concerned about what the cost is and where the money comes from, other than that. It's not mandatory. If it's a choice, yes we would welcome that," Richardson said.

The Congressional Budget Office has not yet evaluated the proposal.