Ducks Unlimited announced its appreciation today following the U.S. Senate’s 64-35 passage of the 2012 Farm Bill. The $969.9 billion bipartisan bill maintained a conservation title that will benefit wildlife and people. Critical conservation initiatives include the Conservation Reserve Program, a conservation easement program with a strong wetland component, a regional partnership program aimed at improving water quality and a Sodsaver provision. The Senate also moved to link eligibility for federally subsidized crop insurance to compliance with conservation practices.
“In these challenging economic times it’s critical to thoughtfully review long-standing programs and to work on increased efficacy and cost savings,” said DU CEO Dale Hall. “The conservation title in the Farm Bill has gone through extreme scrutiny, and our legislators have made some changes that maintain support for a strong agricultural economy and the conservation of soil, water, wetlands, waterfowl and other wildlife. This bill recognizes the significant value of conservation programs in keeping our citizens on their working farms, ranches and forestlands.”
The 2012 Farm Bill encompasses a wide range of programs connected to American land and agriculture. The conservation programs have been streamlined to provide practices that will allow farmers to be better stewards of their land, as well as conserve critical water, soil and wildlife. DU is especially pleased to see several key provisions that will conserve wetlands and native grasslands.
One such program, Sodsaver, is aimed at protecting native grasslands from being converted to cropland. It does so by reducing federal crop insurance on any grassland acres with no cropping history that are newly converted to crop production. The program is especially important in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Dakotas and Montana, where the loss of native grassland nesting habitat can have monumental impacts on waterfowl populations and people.
“Wetlands are critical not only as waterfowl and other wildlife habitat, but also to help improve water quality and reduce flooding for downstream residents,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. “Providing incentives for good conservation practices as part of the crop insurance program is sound public policy and will protect wetlands in vital areas like the Prairie Pothole Region. Farmers and ranchers have long been good stewards of the land and this ensures their continued accountability for the federal benefits received. As the world’s leader in wetlands conservation, DU and our more than 1 million supporters and partners are ready to work with agricultural producers to ensure wetlands serve the needs of our communities and country.”
Protections for our nation’s natural resources have never been more critical.
“The rate at which native grassland, particularly in our nation’s prairies, is being converted rivals any in recent history,” Schmidt said. “Weakening protections and rising crop prices have put native grasslands at high risk of being converted. This Farm Bill sets the stage for ongoing partnership among America’s farmers, ranchers, and conservationists, providing agricultural producers the programs and tools they need to manage and maintain productive soil and water resources, while generating benefits for waterfowl, hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.”
Hall and Schmidt praised our nation’s senators, especially Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, for crafting a bipartisan bill that enhances our nation’s agricultural economy and conserves essential natural resources. Ducks Unlimited stands ready to work with the House agricultural committee and leadership to complete passage of the 2012 Farm Bill.
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