Dye Creek Preserve, California © Ian Shive
Speak Up For the Farm Bill
Protecting Land, Improving Water and Habitat
The Farm Bill represents—by far—the nation’s largest investment supporting the voluntary and successful conservation, restoration and management of America’s private lands. These activities are critical to a strong economy, healthy and productive rural lands and vibrant communities.
We need to pass a five-year Farm Bill now.
Seventy percent of the land in the lower 48 states is privately owned. Nearly 900 million acres, or roughly half of the land in the contiguous United States, are cropland, rangeland or pasture land and eligible for Farm Bill programs. Another 430 million acres, or 54 percent of America’s forests, are privately owned, making forestland another key resource for the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is the most important legislation for conserving private lands in America. It provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and other private landowners that result in cleaner water, improved soil conservation, enhanced wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities, increased flood control and economic benefits for local communities and rural economies.
Farm Bill: Top Three Priorities
1. Conserve and Restore Key Habitats – Improve the conservation of wetlands, grasslands and private forests by maintaining funding for easements, with a special emphasis placed on permanent easements and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) and Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP). Easement Programs are critical to the conservation of wetlands, grasslands, floodplains and private forests. The Conservancy supports funding at least equal to the 2012 House Agriculture Committee provided 10-year level for easements in the previous Congress.
2. Improve Environmental Management – Enhance the management of private lands through Working Lands Programs, which work by improving stewardship practices and providing technical assistance and cost-share programs on working agricultural and private non-industrial forest lands. The Conservancy supports funding at the levels passed by the House Agriculture Committee in the last Congress for these programs, especially the combined Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).
3. Target Key Resource Issues – Direct a higher percentage of Farm Bill funding to address resource issues of special significance in priority landscapes and watersheds, and structure programs to achieve local and landscape-scale environmental benefits. Such focused investments of Farm Bill resources will result in greater conservation outcomes, increased economic benefits and better returns for American taxpayers. The Conservancy believes the Regional Conservation Partnership Program passed by the Senate as well as the House Agriculture Committee in the last Congress is a smart and effective way to target Farm Bill resources based on national, regional and state priorities.
Additional Important Issues
Discourage Conversion of Grazing Lands to Marginal Cropland – A strong Sodsaver program will prevent the conversion of native grasslands to row crops. The Senate-passed bill from the last Congress contained a provision for a strong, national Sodsaver program which the Conservancy supports. The Conservancy similarly supports the “Protect our Prairies” bill as introduced in the House.
Strengthen Conservation Compliance – Strengthen conservation compliance to prevent conversion of significant and sensitive habitats, with special emphasis placed on removing incentives to drain wetlands and convert native prairie or grasslands to cropland. Congress should once again link conservation compliance with crop insurance, as it was before the 1995 Farm Bill. The full Senate passed a bill that included conservation compliance in the last Congress.