BLUEPRINT FOR FARM BILL CONSERVATION
Leading hunting, fishing, and conservation groups push
fish and wildlife funding in 2007 Farm Bill
WASHINGTON, DC -- Amid concerns that the 2007 federal Farm Bill may contain provisions detrimental to the Conservation Reserve Program and other conservation programs, the Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group (AWWG) of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) has announced recommendations to retain and enhance provisions of the Farm Bill. In a report entitled “Growing Conservation in the Farm Bill,” the group recommends making conservation a priority in federal farm programs.
“Few people realize just how much the Farm Bill matters for fish and wildlife,” said Barton James of Ducks Unlimited, co-chairman of AWWG, “but it’s the single largest federal investment in conservation on private land, which covers more than half the land in the lower 48 states.”
AWWG priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill include the following.
- Biofuels and Renewable Energy -- Promote the next generation of biofuels and renewable energy technology based on farming practices that are consistent with fish, wildlife, soil, nutrient management, and water conservation goals. Taxpayer investment in conservation and wildlife gains accomplished during the past 20 years under Farm Bill conservation programs should not be sacrificed or diminished.
- “Sodsaver,” or Non-Cropland Conversion -- Make ineligible for any federal benefit -- including but not limited to price and income support payments, crop insurance, disaster payments, conservation program enrollment, and FSA farm loan benefits -- any land not meeting the definition of cropland, as determined by the USDA/Farm Service Agency, that is converted from non-cropland status to cropland. Non-cropland converted to cropland should be reconstituted as a separate farm by FSA.
- Conservation Compliance -- Link Sodbuster/Swampbuster compliance to all federal farm program benefits, including crop insurance and disaster program eligibility. A farm should be ineligible to receive federal benefits for the year noncompliance is discovered. Following-year eligibility should be approved if noncompliance is rectified and restoration is certified within six months of discovery.
- Conservation Performance Measures -- Identify and authorize specific mechanisms for tracking the success of conservation measures.
- Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) -- Reauthorize CRP. Cropland must have been planted to an agricultural commodity during four of the six years from 1996 through 2001. CREP and Continuous CRP authority should be reauthorized. Overall CRP acreage should expand to 45 million acres;
- Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) -- Increase program to 300,000 acres per year to improve wetlands conservation, mitigate wetlands loss, provide migratory bird and fisheries habitat, and improve water quality.
- Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) -- Increase to 2 million acres per year. Require that a minimum of 60 percent of the agreements are long-term easements of 30 years or more. Provide incentives for large tract non-cropland native grasslands.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) -- Gradually increase WHIP funding from $100 million to $300 million over the course of the 2007 Farm Bill. A significant portion of new funds should be targeted for aquatic restoration, including stream habitat improvement. Incorporate the assistance of states, municipalities, and non-government organizations to deliver and manage WHIP.
- Access -- Include a provision based upon “Open Fields” legislation (S. 548/H.R. 1351 in 109th Congress) to provide $20 million per year in grants to fund state-managed, voluntary access programs. Enhance wildlife management and improve recreational opportunities on land enrolled in Farm Bill conservation programs.
- Forest Stewardship Program (FSP) -- Reauthorize the FSP at its current authorization level, at minimum. Promote long-term healthy forests and enhance management for fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, recreation, and timber production. The Healthy Forests Reserve Program should be expanded nationwide.
- Conservation Security Program (CSP) -- Reauthorize and ensure that it provides increased, measurable, and consistent benefits for fish and wildlife conservation. CSP should require fish and wildlife habitat improvement components for all program tiers and require that NRCS engage federal and state fish and wildlife agencies and non-government conservation organizations when developing fish and wildlife and habitat criteria and assessments. CSP should enhance other USDA conservation programs, not replace or reduce their funding. A CSP model should also be adopted for private forestland owners.
- Farm and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP) -- Reauthorize at $300 million per year. Allow transfer of water rights on enrolled land consistent with state law. Allow landowners the right to prohibit non-cropland conversion on land subject to the easement.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) -- Reauthorize, increase allocation percentages for fish and wildlife practices, and increase opportunities for private forestland owners. Funding should be approved only for practices and structures that do not adversely impact wetlands, riparian zones, streams, native grasslands, and other environmentally-sensitive areas. Existing wetlands must be maintained or improved for function and value in water improvement and flood control.
The TRCP is a coalition of hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations; individuals; and outdoor-related industries working together to guarantee access to places to hunt and fish, conserve fish and wildlife habitat, and increase funding for conservation. Organizations comprising the AWWG include the Midwest Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, the American Sportfishing Association, the Izaak Walton League, the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, The Nature Conservancy, the North American Grouse Partnership, Quail Unlimited, the Ruffed Grouse Society, Trout Unlimited, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
For more information on AWWG's proposals for the 2007 Farm Bill, contact Tim Zink at 202-654-4625 or firstname.lastname@example.org .