Frank Price, co-owner of Frank and Sims Price Ranch in Sterling City, Texas, testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) to the importance of voluntary conservation during the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing “Voluntary Conservation: Utilizing Innovation and Technology”.
Price, recipient of the 2014 NCBA Environmental Stewardship Award, told the committee that given the diversity of range lands across the country voluntary conservation programs are key to achieving meaningful results.
“A one-size fits all approach that accompanies a top-down regulation does not work,” said Price. “It’s the voluntary part of the conservation practices that really make them work for ranchers. We’ve had success using some of these conservation programs, but just because a system works for us does not mean it is right for everybody. If these programs were to become mandatory, the rules and regulations that follow would make it harder for farmers and ranchers to use unique conservation practices to ensure their individual operations thrive.”
Price stresses that voluntary conservation efforts have allowed him and his son to achieve their top goals: ensuring the ranch remains profitable and that they leave the land in better condition for future generations. While drought and wildfire decimated their ranch in 2011 and 2012, conservation and grazing management allowed them to improve their rangelands through these difficult times. One of the programs he says has helped him achieve their goals is the Environmental Quality Incentive Program.
“When wildfire came through our ranch in 2011, we had to rebuild miles of fencing,” said Price. “EQIP helped us do it through a cost-share. One of the reasons EQIP has become popular among ranchers is because it is a working-lands program. Conservation programs that keep land in production and do not limit its use are the best for both the ranchers and conserving our resources.”
While drought is a constant problem in West Texas, innovative practices and voluntary conservation programs have allowed the Prices to improve their ranch and make their grasslands resilient. For Price, the success of conservation and the ranch economy are not at odds in ensuring we can sustain our country’s natural resources and our way of life for generations.
“I believe that economic activity and conservation go hand-in-hand,” said Price. “We are always looking for new, innovative conservation programs that will have tangible benefits for the environment and help improve our ranching lands. USDA’s conservation programs have been a great asset to cattle producers and it is important that these programs continue to be implemented in the same practical, producer friendly, and voluntary manner for years to come.”