Senate Agriculture Committee Improves Farm Bill, but More Work Needed

Measure should be amended to better safeguard natural resources

04-26-2012 // M├ękell Mikell, Ph.D.

The National Wildlife Federation commends Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts for their leadership in crafting and moving out of committee a bipartisan reauthorization of the farm bill.

It is important that we pass a farm bill this year, and we praise the committee leadership for their hard work in helping to make this happen,” said Julie Sibbing, director of agriculture and forestry programs at the National Wildlife Federation.

The Senate Agriculture Committee passed a farm bill today which seeks to minimize the effects of cuts to conservation and energy programs. However, the National Wildlife Federation believes vital improvements are still needed to ensure protection for wildlife and natural resources. 

“The final bill must ensure that farmers receiving taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance do not drain wetlands and cultivate erosion-prone soil without conservation measures,” said Sibbing.  “Unfortunately, the bill as it stands now would allow farmers to continue to receive taxpayer-supported crop insurance without complying with such measures."

The lack of wetlands protection requirements for crop insurance recipients means the estimated $90 billion to be spent on taxpayer subsidies for crop insurance over the next ten years could be subsidizing the destruction of tens of thousands of acres of valuable wetlands, resulting in increased downstream flooding and loss of wildlife habitat.

“It is unfair to ask taxpayers to help fund insurance for farmers while these same farmers are increasing the risk to downstream communities,” said Sibbing.

The wetlands most at risk if the legislation is not amended are those in the Prairie Pothole region of the northern Great Plains, often referred to as America's ‘duck factory’.  

The National Wildlife Federation praises the inclusion of a number of modifications to the farm bill, including an amendment by Senator Thune to discourage the destruction of native prairies, an amendment by Senator Conrad to provide mandatory funding for Energy title programs (including the Biomass Crop Assistance Program and the Rural Energy for America Program) and an amendment by Senator Brown to add nutrient management as a goal of the Regional Conservation Partnerships program, a new initiative hat will strategically direct resources to improve the health of some of the nation’s Great Waters such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes.

“It’s critical that a farm bill is passed this year. The National Wildlife Federation is committed to working with members of the both parties on improvements so that the final measure can be a victory for wildlife and for all who care about the protection and stewardship of our natural resources,” said Sibbing.

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