House Agriculture Committee Passes Farm Bill that Will Lead to Destruction of Prairies and Wetlands

Measure should be amended to better safeguard natural resources

07-12-2012 // Aislinn Maestas
Farm wetland in Michigan

The National Wildlife Federation today criticized the Farm Bill passed by the House Committee on Agriculture for its damaging implications for the nation’s declining prairies and wetlands. A strongly supported bipartisan amendment to limit federal subsidies for farming on native grasslands was withdrawn after committee Chairman Frank Lucas expressed his strong disapproval to allowing it to apply in his home state of Oklahoma. 

“A national sodsaver measure to protect grasslands and minimum soil and wetland conservation requirements are common sense provisions that are broadly supported by hunters, anglers, budget hawks and farmers who are willing to meet some environmental standards in exchange for federal benefits like crop insurance,” said Julie Sibbing, Director of Agriculture and Forestry Programs at the National Wildlife Federation. “These measures must be included in the final bill if taxpayers are to get a modest return on their enormous investment in agriculture.”

In addition to lacking a national sodsaver provision, the House bill also failed to close a new loophole in the longstanding soil and wetlands conservation requirements on eligibility for federal subsidies.  Due to a shift in how farmers are subsidized in the new bill, those who receive only crop insurance, the largest subsidy most farmers receive, would not have to abide by these conditions. 

“We believe that providing taxpayer subsidized crop insurance to those who drain wetlands and who farm erosion-prone soil without conservation measures breaks a longstanding covenant with American taxpayers and could result in significant damage to our waterways and wildlife habitat,” said Sibbing.

The lack of  wetlands protection requirements on crop insurance means that 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. This provision was included in the Senate bill after an amendment on the floor.

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