Former USDA official to speak at Farm Bill Forum April 29

Farm Forum

Sioux Falls – South Dakota’s conservation and agricultural leaders will gather on April 29 to discuss the need to tie federal farm payments to conservation practices that protect the state’s water, soils and wildlife habitat.

Keynote speaker for the free public forum will be former U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Bruce Knight, a South Dakota native and third-generation farmer-rancher. He will present the case for conservation compliance in federal crop insurance programs.

Knight served as undersecretary of marketing and regulatory programs for the USDA from 2006-2009. He is a nationally recognized leader in conservation, agriculture and the environment and founder and principal of Strategic Conservation Solutions, a specialized consulting firm.

Sponsored by the Izaak Walton League of America, the April 29 forum will begin with a 5:30 p.m. reception and the keynote address will begin at 7 p.m. The event will be at the Sioux Falls Chapter of the Izaak Walton League, located at 5000 North Oakview Place, Sioux Falls.

Following Knight’s keynote address, there will be a panel discussion with Knight, Dr. Carol Johnston from South Dakota State University, Julie Sibbing from the National Wildlife Federation, and Mike Traxinger from South Dakota Farmers Union.

Other participating organizations include the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Ducks Unlimited.

“With action on the federal farm bill in Washington DC moving forward, it is time to engage South Dakota farmers, conservationists and regulators in a discussion of conservation compliance and how to enact effective conservation policy,” said Bill Wenzel, agriculture program director for the Izaak Walton League of America.

Conservation compliance for federal crop insurance is one way the IWLA is exploring to increase conservation and save federal tax dollars that will protect wetlands, wildlife habitat and sensitive soils.

“Under the compliance provision in federal farm law, farmers who accept taxpayers’ money would agree to provide basic stewardship of soil, water and wetlands,” Wenzel said. “This requires no additional federal dollars; in fact, it can result in budgetary savings, cleaner water and improved wildlife habit.”

“Without the link to conservation compliance, wetlands will be lost at an unacceptable rate. However, we have the ability to slow these losses by restoring the link between federal crop insurance subsidy benefits and conservation compliance, as well as establishing provisions to protect native grasslands. Conservation compliance has been shown to have saved an estimated 295 tons of soil per hear, and protects an estimated 1.5 to 3.3 million acres of vulnerable wetlands from being drained. Re-establishing the link between conservation compliance and crop insurance premium subsidies would save approximately $55 million in federal spending over a ten year period. In this era of shrinking budgets, this is a common sense approach to conservation,” Wenzel said.

RSVP by April 26 by contacting Gwen Steel at or (651) 649-1446.