On Tuesday the US Senate voted 68-32 to pass the 2014 Farm Bill, a massive five-year agreement that will decide how nearly $1 trillion will be distributed between programs for agriculture, conservation, and food aid. The almost 1,000-page bill was passed with bipartisan support after more than two years of being stalled in Congress, amid criticism of the bill’s high price tag and how it will cut spending on food stamps. The bill now heads to the desk of President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it.
Many conservation groups stand staunchly behind the bill for the benefits that it will bring to America’s wildlife habitats. According to The Washington Post, roughly $56 million is earmarked for conservation programs. Among other provisions, the Farm Bill will provide incentive for landowners to open their lands to sportsmen, link conservation compliance with the federal crop program, encourage farmers to conserve fragile grasslands under the “sodsaver” program, and provide conservation funding.
“This is a big win for conservation and for working farmers and ranchers,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall. “The conservation programs authorized and funded through the farm bill are the backbone of Ducks Unlimited conservation work on private lands, and they have just been strengthened by the inclusion of our top priorities.”
In a press release published today, Hall also praised the bill as the best conservation legislation that his organization has seen in many years. As a voice for wetland preservation, Ducks Unlimited is hopeful that the 2014 Farm Bill will mean a renewed push for clean water and minimizing soil erosion in duck habitats.
Some hunter advocate groups have also announced their support for the bill, including the Boone and Crockett Club.
“Members of the Boone and Crockett Club have been working on the Farm Bill for over two years,” said club president William Dremmer. “We are pleased the bill reduces federal expenditures. It targets conservation to key forest, grassland, wetland and other wildlife habitats.”
The New York Times reported that the Farm Bill will cost $956 billion over the next 10 years, with an estimated reduction of $23 billion to various nutritional and agricultural programs. This included a controversial $8.4 billion cut on food stamps and the elimination of “direct payments” for farmers. The bill will also involve conservation cuts, lowering the amount of land involved in the Conservation Reserve Program to 23 million acres. Despite this, conservation groups said they view the bill as an overall win.
“We are going to be celebrating this bill,” Steve Kline, director of government relations for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, told the Star Tribune. ““It is the best we can get.’’
Image courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service