Negotiating a political path to agroforestry through the Conservation Security Program

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Abstract

Temperate agroforestry systems have faced obstacles to adoption despite their multiple environmental, economic, and social benefits. In part, these obstacles derive from the typically small scale of agroforestry systems relative to large-scale mainstream grain agriculture, which in the US is supported by strong commodity subsidies. One promising option for promoting agroforestry on a policy level, and thus for making it more appealing to landowners, is the Conservation Security Program (CSP), which provides payments to farmers for sustainable conservation practices on working lands. CSP was first passed in 2002 and has many supporters; however it has also faced opposition, delays in implementation and funding caps. CSP proponents have thus promoted its expansion in current and future Farm Bills. Since CSP is one part of the Farm Bill clearly suited to promoting agroforestry practices, supporters of agroforestry should consider joining coalitions around CSP to ensure that it includes explicit provisions for advancing agroforestry. In addition, CSP and agroforestry proponents alike should develop a strategic plan to market the expansion of CSP to policy makers. Specifically, a broad and strong coalition based on ideological common ground (e.g., attention to the notion of a family farmer) and on situational factors (e.g., potential international pressure from the World Trade Organization to reduce commodity subsidies) might be sufficient to push CSP into an expanded role in current and future Farm Bills.

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