Conservation compliance again connected to crop insurance payments; native prairie protections enacted

Today, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill, into law. Pheasants Forever and its quail division, Quail Forever, praised the President for his action, as well as the bipartisan House and Senate support leading to its signature. The farm bill addressed Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s top conservation priorities: reauthorizing vital USDA conservation programs, re-linking conservation compliance to crop insurance and “sodsaver,” or native prairie, protection.

“The farm bill remains the single biggest opportunity for wildlife habitat conservation, and this bill included key provisions that conservation and sportsmen’s groups have been fighting years to achieve,” says Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Governmental Affairs, “Unfortunately, in the time it took to pass this legislation, we’ve lost millions of acres of habitat nationwide. Now the challenge becomes taking all the conservation tools provided by the farm bill and implementing them across the country. Thankfully, policy makers heard our calls, and have provided us with much-needed policies and programs.”

The conservation compliance and sodsaver provisions encourage the protection of the nation’s remaining grasslands and wetlands, while simultaneously preventing soil erosion and improving water quality. “These represent sound natural resources policy,” says Nomsen, “And combined, they represent sound fiscal policy as they will save American taxpayers millions of dollars.”

Wildlife habitat-friendly provisions in the farm bill include:

  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including a change to the program that will allow for the enrollment of up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
  • Re-linkage of conservation compliance connected to crop insurance, which will deter wetland drainage.
  • Regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies where it is most threatened – South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
  • $40 million in funding for Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Programs (VPA-HIP). Commonly referred to as “Open Fields,” this funding improves sportsmen’s access while helping improve wildlife conservation efforts.
  • More than $1 billion allocated for a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.
  • Additionally, U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are consolidated from 23 to 13, which will improve delivery of these programs to interested landowners.

“Pheasants Forever thanks Agriculture Committee Chairs Stabenow and Lucas, Senator Cochran and Congressman Peterson, the four principal negotiators of the 2014 Farm Bill,” Nomsen added, “Rural America, landowners, hunters and the general public can all appreciate large elements of the conservation title, and these legislative efforts deserve recognition.”

Logo courtesy Pheasants Forever

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