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The Nature Conservancy

Speak Up For the Farm Bill

Legislative Update: The Farm Bill is currently being debated in the Senate and will be up for a final vote very soon. The Nature Conservancy supports the bill (.pdf) as passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee. Cutting funding below that level would jeopardize America’s entire system of successful agriculture and forestry conservation programs. Contact your Senators to ask them to support the bill as drafted.

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.

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 Funding Facts


In the current climate of fiscal austerity, we understand that cuts need to be made to discretionary spending programs such as the Farm Bill.

However, Farm Bill Conservation programs should not bear a disproportionate share of those cuts relative to both the overall Farm Bill and all discretionary spending.

Farm Bill conservation programs account for just 7 percent of Farm Bill funding.

For FY 2012 the Senate Appropriations Committee would cut conservation programs by 12 percent, or $756 million. The House-passed cuts would be even deeper, at over $900 million.

In the upcoming Farm Bill, the Conservation, Energy and Forestry Titles must be maintained at the 2008 Farm Bill funding levels to the greatest extent possible.

Short-changing these programs will result in increased soil erosion, poorer water quality, loss of wildlife habitat, increased flooding and harmful impacts to landowners and rural economies.


Farm Bill: Top Three Priorities

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. Status: On April 26, 2012 the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bill with $2.2 billion over five years for the WRP, GRP and FRPP. Congress should maintain these funding levels. (WHIP).

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. Status: Funding should be maintained at the levels passed by the Senate Agriculture Committee for these programs, especially the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), which were combined in Senate committee action and funded at $100 million per year.

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. Status: The regional partnership program model in the Senate Agriculture Committee bill is a good way to target Farm Bill resources based on both national 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. Status: The Senate Agriculture Committee bill contains a provision for the Sodsaver program, which the full Senate and the House should support.

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. Status: The Senate Agriculture Committee bill did not include such a provision, but the full Senate and the House should ensure it is included in the final bill.




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