The next farm bill will include a heavy emphasis on conservation, though budget pressures could limit the scope of those efforts, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said Thursday.
"We haven't articulated that subsidies will be lower, not at this point," said Johanns, opening a forum to help shape the next farm bill, due before Congress in 2007. "I would acknowledge what everybody in Washington would acknowledge and that is literally every part of the federal budget is under budget pressure."
Johanns, a former governor of Nebraska who grew up on an Iowa dairy farm, headed to the Iowa State Fair, where he was urged to make sure the new farm bill is expanded well beyond traditional crop subsidies.
Conservation was on the minds of many, including Sen. Tom Harkin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
"We have some good conservation things going, we need to build on that," Harkin said.
Johanns said Iowa can serve as a model for shaping a conservation program. With its historical emphasis on row crop production, the state's watersheds had become degraded. Conservation programs have begun to reverse that trend, Johanns said.
"Iowa has played a significant role in this area," said Johanns. "Iowa has most significantly changed the landscape, relative to any state in the United States. Pressure has never been greater on farmers to do all they can to be good stewards and farmers are responding."