Farm Bill Conferees Come Through for Wildlife with Strong Water and Soil Protections

"It was the worth the wait to get a Farm Bill that will help protect our nation’s land, water and wildlife."

01-27-2014 // Aislinn Maestas
Eastern Meadowlark

National Wildlife Federation commends the bi-partisan agreement reached today on a final reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The five-year bill contains critical measures for protecting wildlife and habitat, including a re-linking of conservation compliance to new crop insurance subsidies and funding for vital conservation programs. The House and Senate are both expected to pass the long overdue bill shortly.

Farm Bill "Worth the Wait"

“It was the worth the wait to get a Farm Bill that will help protect our nation’s land, water and wildlife,” said Julie Sibbing, Senior Director of Agriculture and Forestry Programs for National Wildlife Federation. “We are particularly pleased that the final bill includes a critical provision to prevent soil erosion and conserve our nation’s priceless wetlands, both of which will protect water quality for people and wildlife.”

By re-linking conservation compliance to federal crop insurance, farmers will have to implement basic soil and wetland protections on their land in exchange for federal assistance. Doing so will prevent countless acres of wetlands from being drained, keep millions of tons of soil from eroding and washing into waterways, and ensure that taxpayer money is not being used to subsidize environmentally-destructive farming practices.

“When we started this process three years ago, conservation compliance was a fringe issue with very little chance of passage,” said Sibbing. “Yet thanks to support from farmers, sportsmen, conservationists and Congressional champions like Senators Chambliss (R-GA) and Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Thompson (D-CA) and Fortenberry (R-NE), we managed to elevate this issue and win strong bipartisan support for this important provision in both the House and Senate.” 

Bill Includes Funding for Farmers to Create Wildlife Habitat

In addition to conservation compliance, the bill includes funding for farmers to create wildlife habitat on working lands, an innovative new regional conservation partnership program, and mandatory energy title funding.

Unfortunately, the final bill does not include a national sodsaver provision to protect fragile native grasslands, but rather limits the scope of sodsaver to six mid-western states.

“While we are pleased to see sodsaver included in the final bill, we are disappointed that it is restricted to only six states,” said Sibbing. “With much of the nation’s current native grassland conversion occurring outside these states, limiting sodsaver means grassland conversion will likely continue, destroying vital habitat for grassland birds and other wildlife.”

 

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