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The Nature Conservancy April 2013

Speak Up For the Farm Bill


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.

We need to pass a five-year Farm Bill now.

Click here to tell Congress you agree.



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


Deliberations needed to re-authorize the Farm Bill in 2013 will be particularly difficult given the need to reduce federal government spending. We believe the bills reported by the House Agriculture Committee last year and passed by the Senate demonstrate that the Conservation Title can continue meeting vital national needs while sharing in budget reductions.

It is critically important that funding for easement programs—the Agricultural Lands Easement (ALE) program and Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)—continue. ALE is comprised of the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) and the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). The WRP, GRP and FRPP have all diminished since a five-year Farm Bill was not passed in 2012.

Farm Bill conservation programs account for just 7 percent of Farm Bill funding. The Conservation, Energy and Forestry Titles should be funded at the levels passed by the full Senate or the House Agriculture Committee, whichever is higher, without further cuts. Short-changing these programs will result in increased soil erosion, poorer water quality, loss of wildlife habitat, increased flooding, decreased resistance to drought and harmful impacts to landowners and rural economies.


Farm Bill: Top Three Priorities


1. 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. The Conservancy supports funding at least equal to the 2012 House Agriculture Committee provided 10-year level for easements in the previous Congress.

2. 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. The Conservancy supports funding at the levels passed by the House Agriculture Committee in the last Congress for these programs, especially the combined Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

3. 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. The Conservancy believes the Regional Conservation Partnership Program passed by the Senate as well as the House Agriculture Committee in the last Congress is a smart and effective way to target Farm Bill resources based on national, regional 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. The Senate-passed bill from the last Congress contained a provision for a strong, national Sodsaver program which the Conservancy supports. The Conservancy similarly supports the “Protect our Prairies” bill as introduced in the House.

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. The full Senate passed a bill that included conservation compliance in the last Congress.



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