here are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.
Aldo Leopold

30 November 2005

Luke's Way Part 3

Luke is an interesting young fellow, thoughtful, sincere, and comical in an off-the-wall kind of way. Luke looked at his father and seeing no sign to maintain silence, furrowed his brow and declared �Huh. Well, deer are pretty smart.� Never truer words were spoken. The boy had just delivered a simple yet profound nugget of truth to me in taking the attention off of myself and my misery and my woe-is-me deer-less pity party and putting the focus squarely where it belonged, on the honorable and magnificent quarry I was after and the reality that hunting deer should not be easy. I smiled and laughed a little, and so did Luke and Rob, but uncomfortably. Apparently, I was wearing this all on my sleeve. I needed to remedy the ambiguous tension in the air.

�Luke, in hunting, as in life, things don�t always go our way. Right now, I am a little discouraged because I have put a lot of thought, time, and effort into getting a deer, and I haven�t got one yet. Most everybody I know has gotten at least a doe or two by now, and many have gotten a buck. I guess I have been feeling a little sorry for myself because I haven�t had a fairy tale deer season where I got a trophy buck on the first day. But, like you said, deer are pretty smart, and I will keep trying. I am glad you are here, and we will go squirrel hunting tomorrow morning, and see what we can do. Are you prepared?�

Luke�s eyes got a little wider and his voice a little higher as he listed all of the things he had done in preparation for his hunt. His enthusiasm elated the mood in the room and the rest of the evening was relaxed for the grown ups, and full of anticipation for Luke, who decided to �turn in early� to be ready for the morning hunt. The fires died in the fireplaces, the wine gave out, and conversation waned. We retired with a steady snow falling.

The next morning I did not awake before dawn as was my usual routine, because squirrel hunting need not be that kind of affair. We all ate a leisurely breakfast, carried a little wood for the kitchen fireplace, and drank coffee and hot chocolate. We went scouting for squirrels, did some farm chores, and before we knew it, it was 2:00 PM. I had forgotten how civilized life could be at such a pace, what with the water fowling season and deer season rigors. Finally, according to Luke, we turned our full attention to the squirrel hunt.

We adjourned to the gun room and began dressing for the field, bundling up against the dropping temperatures outside. Luke was going to borrow my .22, and Rob and I each carried 12 gauge shotguns �to help out� Luke. Rob�s gun for the day was a New England Firearms single shot, mine was a FieldMaster pump, named the �magical gun of mystery� in honor of its often idiosyncratic ways, especially in the duck blind. Would it cycle, would it fire? One never knew. I thought I�d give it a run since I had recently cleaned it good. My hope was that this would be a good barn gun, an extra shotgun to have around, used more as a tool than as an instrument of sporting leisure. It was the right gun for the day.

Luke loaded a pocket full of .22 rounds into his hunting coat, and I grabbed a handful of number sevens. �These ought to do the trick for backing Luke up,� I thought, smiling at the remembrance of my first boyhood squirrel which mysteriously had more than one hole in it despite the fact that I only shot my .22 once. My glance skimmed across a wooden cigar box which held my deer hunting slug shells. �Better grab a couple of these, too, just in case,� I said out loud, noticing a definite increase in my optimism levels. Luke grinned at me.

We crunched through the fresh snow past the barns toward the creek ravine. The ridges over looking the ravine are dotted with 100 year old oak trees that are in decline and full of large cavities. They are like housing projects for gray squirrels. We arrived at the biggest of these, which stands guard over the trail that descends the steep banks of the gully. The ravine is gorge-like in places, with depths of up to 70 feet from the ridge to the creek bottom below. One can only see the creek bottom by standing on the very edge of the ravine and peering over the edge. Adding the 100 plus feet of height of the oak trees, the squirrels are afforded quite a vantage point indeed.

On this day, a squirrel was noisily gnawing away at something in the higher branches. We spotted him high above, a silhouette against the gray sky. �Too far, too high� Rob explained to Luke, taking advantage of an opportunity to explain how rifle bullets travel, even .22�s, and how we must anticipate how far past what we shoot at our bullets will fly. We observed the copious squirrel sign on the snow covered ground, and we bent down studying the comings and goings of our quarry. Luke asked about the blurred tracks, and we spoke of the wind, and the snow, and how animals react to severe weather. And then it happened. It was subtle, almost the same feeling you have when you have been in the waiting room at the doctor�s for hours, and have become drowsy and resigned to forever waiting, and then your name is called. It is both startling and no surprise at all.

24 November 2005

Stuck in the Middle

I post this in case some have not seen it...

New York Times
November 23, 2005
Op-Ed Contributor
Stuck in the Middle

THIS Thanksgiving there's something to be really thankful for: more and more Americans - at least 250,000 of them in New York alone this week - are shopping for their turkeys and sweet potatoes at local farmers' markets.

They're doing so because the food is fresher, less processed and generally tastes better than what you'd find in a supermarket. But there are also political and social considerations: supporting small farmers, these shoppers believe, will preserve farmland, reduce the number of industrial farms and help us move away from an agricultural economy that encourages the production of commodities like corn, soy and sugar at the expense of just about everything else.

These people are right. And they're also wrong. The bitter truth is that American agriculture - its land and its immensely complex distribution system - is no longer in the hands of the small farmer. Small farmers and farmers' markets, as much as we want them to, are simply not in the position right now to save American agriculture.

Giant farms won't either, of course. For the most part, these are the farms that grow a single crop or raise large numbers of animals in close confinement. To sustain their unnatural existence, these megafarms, whether they're raising crops or animals, require enormous quantities of pesticides, fertilizers and antibiotics simply to survive. The result? Pollution, erosion and diseases that spread easily among factory-raised, immune-deficient animals.
Sadly, these farms aren't going away. In a perverse logic that defies nature, a farm needs to get ever larger and more specialized to survive. The number of farms with annual sales of more than $500,000 has increased 23 percent from 1997 to 2002. American farm policy, with a dazzling menu of subsidies, will keep us on this path for the foreseeable future.

The answer to this agricultural puzzle lies somewhere in the middle. Actually, it lies exactly in the middle, with the nation's 350,000 midsize farmers. These farmers, who are too big to sell directly to greenmarkets but too small to compete with highly subsidized industrial farms, cultivate more than 40 percent of our farmland.

Such farmers tend to be highly effective stewards of the land, with intimate knowledge of their farms and their communities. They are small-business owners - not corporations - and have proven records of being interested in protecting not just the economic health of the land, but its ecological health as well.

Unfortunately, these farmers are also on the way out. Midsize farms, with sales of $50,000 to $500,000, are declining rapidly. According to government figures, the number of these farms has declined 14 percent from 1997 to 2002, a net loss of nearly 65,000 farms.

According to Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State, it is no longer hard to imagine that most of the farms of the middle will be gone in another a decade.

Why should we care? Because our ways of farming are intimately linked to the destructive ways we're eating. Think about your local supermarket. There's fresh produce on the perimeter; but venture into the middle aisles and you're surrounded by processed, canned, preserved and frozen foods.

It may appear to be a world of variety, but look closer. The cookies, granola bars, crackers, chips, salad dressings and baby food all have one thing in common: they are made from derivations of corn, soy and sugar. About 70 percent of our agricultural land in the Midwest is devoted to producing these crops.

The farms that produce these single commodities average about 14,000 acres, roughly the size of Manhattan. And the future? Thomas Dorr, under secretary of agriculture for rural affairs, has predicted that 250,000-acre behemoths will dominate agriculture. If they do, the number of farms in Mr. Dorr's home state, Iowa, would drop to about 120 from 89,000.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. "Get big or get out" has been what farmers have been told for decades. And big farms have come with one big benefit: inexpensive food. Americans spend a smaller percentage of their disposable income for food than anyone else in the developed world. But these savings are illusory.

A funny thing happened on the way to our cheap food system. The books were being cooked in a kind of shell game, Enron-style. The real cost of these monocultures were not being properly accounted for: those taxpayer-financed subsidies ($143 billion over the last decade), the unfairness that results when our excess production gets dumped on developing countries that then can't develop their own resources, the environmental effects of pesticide runoff - the list goes on.

Midsize farms have the potential to be profitable without these hidden costs. After all, there's a large, existing market - school systems, hospitals, local grocery chains, food service distributors - for varied, healthier foods. These institutions, because of their size, cannot shop at the farmers' market. Even if they could, there would never be enough volume or consistency to meet their needs.

Midsize farms can meet those needs. They may be caught up in the commodity game right now - trying to expand, trying to focus on single crops - but that's largely because that's where the incentives are. For many of these farms, racing to keep up will be their downfall.
We need to encourage these farms to do what they do best: grow a variety of crops, raise a variety of animals, resist the temptation to grow too much.

How do we do this? By shifting the money. Our government now subsidizes the commodity production of grain - mostly corn and soybeans. We need to pull farmers out of the commodity trap and help them make the transition to growing the kinds of whole foods - fruits and vegetables - that would benefit us all. This is not another subsidy, and it's not welfare. It's seed money for a new frontier (actually, an old frontier) in agriculture.

A small number of midsize farms have already arrived. Niman Ranch with meats, and Organic Valley with milk, are examples of profitable alternatives to factory farms. Large food-service companies too, like Sysco, are responding to their customers' increased desire for products that have a story attached to them by reaching out to midsize farms.

Make no mistake: this change will require us to change our ways. We're going to have to support a diet that contains fewer processed, commodity-based foods. We're going to have to pay more for what we eat. We're going to have to contend with those who question whether it's practical to reduce subsidies for large farmers and food producers. And we're going to have to reward farmers for growing the food we want for our children.

These recommendations may seem bold to the point of audacious. But are they really? After all, what could be more audacious - or contrary to the rural heritage we celebrate this week - then great stretches of our landscape covered with 250,000-acre farms?

Dan Barber is the chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and the creative director of the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

17 November 2005

Luke's Way Part 2

�How�s it going?� my freind from Kentucky inquires. �Great� I reply, aware that in that moment I might have wasted the last ounce of contrived optimism I may somehow have still been in possession of, and would be utterly bankrupt of positive thoughts when I get to my stand this afternoon. �What�s up?�

�Well, you know, Luke has been talking about wanting to hunt, and I don�t hunt, so I was wondering if you would take him hunting?� My friend Rob is not an avid outdoorsman, preferring to heap his genius upon more predictable and controllable things than nature, such as computers. I have considered the wisdom of his choices while freezing in my deer stand and have found them to be admirable, especially admirable this deer season.

�Has Luke ever been deer hunting?� I ask.
�Not really. We shot his .22 a few times together, though.�
�At what?� I ask.
�Cans, mostly.�
�See, all of his friends are starting to go hunting with their Dads or uncles, you know, everybody hunts down here.�

�Well, I�d love to see you guys, and I think it would be great to get Luke out hunting. Maybe we could go for squirrels.� I was thinking it might be better to postpone this hunting expedition idea until after deer season was over, so I could finish my languishing campaign in peace. There was only a week to go.

�Were you thinking in a few weeks� I asked?

�Well, we could do it next weekend�� I did the mental math. That would be the last weekend of deer season. But, for goodness sake, I had better at least see a deer by then.

�That will work just fine. Make sure Luke brings warm clothes and good boots. We have snow. Should be great hunting weather.� I can never pass up an opportunity to share the hunting tradition with a youngster. Besides, if I have wrecked my deer karma, maybe this will help.

The days passed by much like the preceding days of deer season, though I did at least get a fleeting glimpse of a doe or two, and even a handsome buck passed by out of range. The weather got colder, the ground squirrels seemed to disappear, and the snow deepened by the time Luke and Rob arrived. Shots were infrequently heard now, and my musings were muffled in the snowy quiet of the winter woods. I heard the dogs barking back up at the house and guessed that my hunt for the afternoon was over, that the Squirrel Hunting Expedition had begun. As I lowered my gun to the ground and climbed out of my tree stand, I heard the alarm chirp of a gray squirrel. I noted his location, and thought �Now don�t you guys all disappear too, Mr. Gray Squirrel.�

I made the hike back to the house quickly. It was easier now that I didn�t carry the back pack loaded with rope and knives and other sundries needed in the event one slew a deer. Now I just carried my gun and a handful of shells. Luke and Rob were standing on the steps, hands on hips, looking at the frozen lake, while my labs entreated the new arrivals to heed their wagging and whining. I felt my spirits lift a little from the heaviness I was beginning to suffer from the battles with self-doubt in the deer campaign.

We entered the house where my wife had a cozy fire going and delicious smells to greet our guests. Both Rob and Luke were immediately under the spell of our little piece of heaven, and by dinner time, Luke was being regaled by stories of �Myself as Great Waterfowl Hunter.� He listened enthusiastically to my tales, and my labs wagged their tales where appropriate. Rob also indulged me and encouraged me to continue with laughter and questions. As I was pouring a wee bit more wine into my glass, Luke deadpanned: �What about the deer?�

Waxing nostalgic about hunting aesthetics is one thing, but it should not be forgotten that hunting has its origins in a fairly straightforward requirement to put meat on the table. Leave it to a child to do so well what most adults have an increasingly more difficult time of. Ask the hard ones. Cut to the chase, get to the bottom line, and don�t equivocate. So there it was, the question laid before me. �Meat, or no meat?� �Success, or failure?� I looked into this aspiring hunter�s eyes and I could see that no flowery talk of �enjoying nature being the point of hunting� was going to fly. I think he understood the point was to hunt, which is more than to kill, and he was asking just how I was faring in that department. I cleared my throat, breaking the silence. �This is the year of the buck� I said flatly. �I have hunted hard for him, and he has eluded me. I haven�t seen many deer at all, and I have killed none.� I took a gulp of wine and swallowed. More silence.

11 November 2005

Marking the end of conservation?

Reprinted from:

Richard Louv

November 8, 2005

The American conservationist may be an endangered species, both in
numbers and public influence.

That's the bleak news suggested by some attendees at the National
Conservation Learning Summit, held this weekend at the sprawling
woodland campus of the National Conservation Training Center in West

Some estimates indicate that as many as 60 percent of the most senior
federal employees are eligible to retire in 2007. Many of those are in
conservation and natural resource fields. Over one-half of the senior
executives at the Department of the Interior, USDA Forest Service and
Environmental Protection Agency will retire by 2007.

Within that same period, the Department of Interior will lose 61
percent of its program managers, the Forest Service will lose 81
percent of its entomologists and 49 percent of its foresters, and the
EPA will lose 45 percent of its toxicologists and around 30 percent of
its environmental specialists.

"A brain drain is imminent," according to Cheryl Charles, an organizer
of the summit, convened by the Brandwein Foundation and attended by
representatives of more than 100 federal conservation services and

There's no guarantee that boomers will go gently into that good
retirement; they're a stubborn, age-defying lot. Still, these are
pension-rich government service jobs we're talking about. Will young
people move into these jobs? Maybe not. In past decades, the
idealistic, outdoor-oriented young were drawn to government careers in conservation.

But that interest peaked in the 1970s. As baby boomers move toward
retirement, the stock of new conservationists may be drying up.

From 1980 to 2003, undergraduate enrollment in natural resource
programs has fallen, according to research conducted at Utah State University.

Interpreting hard statistics prior to 1980 are problematic, says Terry
Sharik, a professor at Utah State's College of Natural Resources. But
he estimates that if the '70s are factored in, enrollment may have
fallen by half.

"We've got to find out why this is happening," he says. "If we don't
answer that question, our academic departments and conservationists may
soon be seen as irrelevant, if they aren't already seen that way."

Sharik and Charles point to decreased physical involvement of children
in nature - and the difficulty conservationists have communicating what
they do.

Environmental organizations are also concerned about generational
attrition. So is business. The Outdoor Industry Association, which
represents hundreds of companies selling everything from backpacks to
kayaks, reports healthy sales of upscale products. But sales of
traditional entry-level gear are nearly dead in the water. Discouraged
by the trend, some companies have decided to drop their entry-level
product lines. Thus, worry about the trend may be self-fulfilling.

Government conservation agencies face a similar pattern. Most agencies
don't seem to have much of a recruitment problem - yet. That gap will
likely occur when the boomers retire. A more immediate concern for the
agencies is ethnic diversity, recruiting new workers who represent the
changing populations they serve.

This summit, and others, could help - if action follows.

Here's one approach. The challenges of scarcity and diversity could
both be met, or moderated, if every conservation agency offered
entry-level conservation corps positions to the young, and actively
recruited from ethic communities. That approach would demand the kind
of investment unlikely in the current political climate.

The hardest nut to crack is public perception. Conjure up a mental
image of a conservationist, and you might envision Teddy Roosevelt, or
a lanky guy in green khaki talking soil science with a Dust Bowl
farmer, a Forest Service firefighter, or a bureaucrat at a desk piled
with regulatory paperwork.

None of these images is particularly attractive to most young people

"Students in my school don't even know what a conservationist is," said
Jeremy Byler, a Washington, D.C., high school student attending the
conference. The students at his school aren't the only ones with a hazy
image of conservationists.

Since 1970, the word conservationist has been overshadowed by the word
environmentalist. Along the way, both words have picked up political
and cultural baggage. For example, many hunters and fishers tend to
call themselves conservationists; while most preservationists and
activists refer to themselves as environmentalists. Such stereotypes
are unfair, but they do reflect the growing confusion about the players
and the score cards.

Bradley Smith, president of the Council of Environmental Deans and
Directors and a dean at Western Washington University, takes issue with
the bleakness increasingly attached to environmental issues by students
and parents. "During the next 40 years we're going to have to do
everything differently," he says. From green architecture to organic
farming to new alternative energy industries, he foresees an array of
exciting careers emerging.

Indeed, the young - or the best of them - have always been drawn to the
possibility of creating a new and better world. Offer more ways to
build it, and they will come.

10 November 2005

Luke's Way Part 1

I had been watching deer all summer and this was to be the �year of the buck.� We purchased our farm in upstate New York to raise a family, to live in the country, and, for me, to hunt. My first hunting season on the farm was a frenzy of hunting, an orgy-like frenzy of hunting madness. Yet despite long (constant if you ask my wife) hours a-field, the first year yielded little by way of game. A few ducks, a goose, some small game, a doe on opening day of deer season. Mind you, it was huge success relative to my previous years hunting, but of course not what I had in mind now that I lived in what my friends referred to as a veritable game preserve. So this year, our second, was to be the �year of the buck.�

All throughout the early small game seasons I kept myself alert for deer, always on the lookout for sign and patterns. I knew where they crossed the creek, where they bedded down, where they browsed the hedgerow fruits and berries, where they traversed our woods en route to corn and soy bean fields. I knew their paths through the cattail marsh, through the overgrown orchard, through bottomland brambles. I had mental notes of all of the rubs on and around my property. I had them patterned and I had seen at least two large bucks. Things were shaping up well for the �year of the buck.�

Opening day of deer season arrived with me riding high on a tide of confidence after a highly productive waterfowl season. I put in a few hard days of last minute preparations, stand placements, shooting lane clearings, all in anticipation of filling at least a doe tag or two and hopefully bagging my buck on opening day, before the deer changed all of their routines due to hunting pressure. I cleaned my WW I Mauser rifle-turned bolt-action shotgun thoroughly, sighted in the red dot scope one last time, pulled my deer hunting garb off of the clothesline where it had been �airing out� for a week or so, and completed last minute checks. �Tomorrow morning is it,� I kept thinking.

In the back of my mind I knew I needed to make a contingency plan about how to deal with the yearly tension between waterfowl hunting, my first love, and deer hunting, a growing obsession in its own right. The night before opening day, I committed to 100% attention to deer season until I got my deer tags filled, or the season ended, one of the two. It felt good to arrive at that position, knowing I seem to do better at whatever I endeavor when I sell out to the cause. So, I was committed to an extended �deer campaign� if required, which was appropriate for what was to be �the year of the buck.�

I slept fitfully and finally gave up at 3:30 AM. �Might as well get going,� I thought as I lay listening to the rain on the metal roof. �Things will be slower in the rain.� I was up and dressed by 4:00 AM and on my way to the stand in the thicket shortly thereafter. The thicket stand, I reasoned, was well placed on a regularly traveled route, and after all the shooting got started, I would be in an easy ambush position as the deer made their retreats to safety. Unfortunately, in the absolute darkness of the cloudy and foggy morning, it took me much more searching, and swearing, than expected to find the tree, despite the fact that I had just looked it over the afternoon before. Finally, as the darkness began lifting, I found the tree stand, and got myself situated. I was overheated, now soaked from the rain and the wet underbrush, and out of sorts. I tried to take some deep breaths, achieve the elusive Zen state of deer hunting, but I kept hearing deer moving around me. With twenty minutes to shooting time, I was strung as tight as a piano wire.

A shot to my left, single, followed by two follow-ups and the sound of someone whooping. �The season is five minutes old and someone is already happy,� I thought, �Won�t be long for me either.� A single shot to my right, near the hedgerow. �Must be Woody�he always gets a deer opening day.� Half an hour passes, and though I regularly hear deer in the brush around me and on the many spur trails, I have yet to see one. A shot to my rear, down by the lake in the vicinity of the cattails, followed up by three more shots in rapid succession. �Hmm�maybe I should have taken up that position near the marsh,� I mutter. Catching myself beginning to second-guess prematurely, I take a deep breath, steady myself, and focus. �This is the year of the buck,� I repeat, as a mantra, as I hear more shots in the distance.

The next two weeks differ very little from opening day. Snow falls, changing the scenery a little. The number of shots heard while in tree stands, or tracking and trudging, diminishes, leading me to believe that most of the deer in the county have been killed by what must be more lucky or more skilled hunters than I. I fall into a routine. Arise an hour before dawn, quickly dress and head out to one of my outposts of despair, while repeating my mantra �This is the year of the buck.� Mentally note the sound of the ducks or the geese on the marsh, taunting me, chiding me for wasting my time on deer when I could be waterfowl hunting. My lab gives me the same look every morning when she sees me put on the orange coat and not the old Filson, and more severely upon my return around 10:00 AM empty handed. Return to the woods around 3:00 PM for a few more hours. Somewhere in those two weeks I manage to show up for work for �reduced hours,� but those minutes are not memorable. What is most memorable, other than the bizarre behavior of ground squirrels which I have become an expert in due to my intimate and extended observations of, is a phone call from a good friend in Kentucky.

(To be Continued...)

01 November 2005

Support the Grassley-Dorgan Farm Program Reform and Ag Conservation Funding Restoration Amendment


Ask Your Senators to Support the Grassley-Dorgan Farm Program Reform and Ag Conservation Funding Restoration Amendment

Please Call Today. Vote is Thursday, Nov. 3

The Senate is considering its FY 2006 Budget Reconciliation bill, which includes $1.1 billion in cuts that could cripple conservation programs over the next five years. New enrollments to the Conservation Security Program (CSP), an innovative, non-trade distorting program to reward farmers and ranchers for stewardship, would end after 2006. These shortsighted cuts come at a time when 3 out of 4 farmers and ranchers who apply for conservation cost-share programs are denied due to lack of adequate funding.

This Thursday, November 3, the Senate votes on the Grassley-Dorgan Farm Program Reform and Ag Conservation Funding Restoration Amendment. The amendment would cap farm program payments at $250,000 for farms with two actively engaged spouses or farming partners. The amendment would make the cuts to agriculture programs more equitable and would restore valuable conservation funding resulting in cleaner water, more wildlife habitat and less soil erosion.

Identify your senator. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator�s office. Once connected, ask to speak with the legislative assistant who covers agricultural issues. If they are not available, leave a clear and concise message with the receptionist.

* You are a constituent and are urging the Senator to vote for the Grassley-Dorgan Payment Limitation and Agricultural Conservation Amendment to the Budget Reconciliation bill.

* The amendment restores funding for important conservation programs like the Conservation Security Program and Conservation Reserve Program that help to protect valuable wildlife habitat and provide clean air and water to residents of their state.

The Senate is voting this week on a FY 06 Budget Reconciliation bill that would cut conservation programs by $1 billion over the next five years. The bill would reduce funding for the CSP, the nation�s first comprehensive stewardship program for farmers and ranchers, by $821 million. These cuts would effectively close the program to new participants after the FY 06 sign-up period. Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage would be cut from 39.2 million acres to 36.4 million acres. This reduction is expected to impact the ability of several states to implement the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in which federal and state funding is used to address high priority conservation issues of both local and national importance. The bill would also limit funding for the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to $1.185 billion annually, a total reduction of $135 million over five years.

The Grassley-Dorgan Payment Limitation and Agricultural Conservation Amendment would provide additional savings by limiting to $250,000 the value of farm program payments that farms with two actively engaged spouses or partners can receive. The savings brought about by the payment limitation amendment would allow the Senate to restore some of the funding originally slated for conservation programs.