Background of Priority Farm Bill Programs

 

 

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

Contracts on nearly 28 million of the 36 million CRP acres nationwide are set to expire between 2007 and 2010. There are approximately 7.8 million acres in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) and half will expire in 2007. Most of these acres consist of large, contiguous blocks of grassland cover interspersed with an abundance of prairie wetlands. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimates that this level of CRP in the PPR is adding 2 million ducks to the fall flight each year. Research has also shown that events occurring on the breeding grounds such as nesting success, breeding hen survival and duckling survival are largely responsible for the annual fluctuations in continental mallard populations. Though it is apparent that CRP is a critical component of the landscape in the PPR, it is currently under threat. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has unveiled a plan to offer contract reenrollments and extensions on the expiring acres. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear the PPR will fare very well under this plan. Acceptance rates for the PPR in recent general signups have also been poor and significant changes to the scoring process are needed to make the PPR competitive once again in future signups. It is vital that acres lost through the reenrollment process are replaced and the current level of CRP in the PPR is maintained.

Background on Other Programs Farm Bill Priorities


Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)

The continental U.S. has lost over 50% of its wetlands and continues to lose these habitats at an alarming rate. One of the most successful federal wetlands conservation programs is the Wetlands Reserve Program, which provides a voluntary, non-regulatory, incentive-based program for private landowners, farmers and ranchers to protect and restore the functions and values of wetlands on their property. WRP has provided an avenue for farmers and ranchers to remove marginal croplands. The changes that occur through the WRP provide societal benefits such as improved water quality and quantity, reduced flood damage and enhanced wildlife habitat. Producer demand for this program outstrips available funding by at least a 3:1 margin. The program is authorized to enroll up to 250,000 acres annually; however, at the current rate of enrollment, WRP will cease to exist beyond 2006 unless it is reauthorized and the acreage cap increased.


"Sodsaver"- Amendment that removes incentives for converting native prairie to cropland

There are 22 million acres of native prairie remaining in the PPR. Only about 1 million acres are protected in perpetuity. The highest priority areas that support the highest breeding densities of ducks need to be protected, however, many of these areas are rapidly disappearing. With the current conversion and protection rates, the PPR could lose over half of the remaining native prairie over the next 34 years. The impact of this magnitude of grassland loss on continental waterfowl populations could be catastrophic. The USFWS estimates a decrease of 25,000 ducks in the fall flight with each 1% loss of native prairie in the PPR.

The current commodity title of the 2002 Farm Bill provides incentives that encourage farmers to break native sod by substantially reducing the financial risks associated with such activities. An amendment that removes incentives for breaking native sod is needed in the next farm bill in order to maintain these vital nesting habitats. In addition to protecting native prairie, such an amendment would also protect a large percentage of the remaining wetlands by default. Approximately 60% of these unprotected wetlands are surrounded by native prairie.

Background on Other Programs  Farm Bill Priorities  

 

Support Letters

Sodsaver Congressional Letter

South Dakota Letter

Johnson Sodsaver Letter

Thune Sodsaver Letter

Sadlin Sodsaver Letter

 


 

Biofuels and Alternative Energy

The 2007 Farm Bill provides a unique opportunity to promote the next generation of renewable energy.  In doing so, care must be taken to ensure the conservation of waterfowl, other wildlife, water resources and the substantial environmental gains made under USDA conservation programs.  Research and development funding should promote the next generation of biofuels technology based on perennial crops that are managed to provide co-benefits to society, including wildlife conservation, cleaner water, and carbon sequestration.

This approach is consistent with the desirable "green" image of this emerging industry, and will also provide a stream of alternative income sources for American farmers.  Science, resource and market-based analyses of where and how biofuels production will be most beneficial, cost effective and sensitive to environmental limitations are not complete.  However, it is becoming evident that marginal lands, including those currently in native prairie grasslands or those enrolled in conservation programs like CRP and WRP, do not represent a viable land base for biofuels production.  Accordingly, Ducks Unlimited advocates a thoughtful, science-based approach to targeting and managing biomass crops in a manner that benefits the wildlife, agricultural producers, citizens, and natural resources of this nation.

Background on Other Programs    Farm Bill Priorities  

Recent DU Magazine Articles on Biofuels

May/June 2007 Issue
"Biofuels and Ducks" by Jim Ringelman, Ph.D. 


Maintain current protection measures that prevent conversion of wetlands to other uses

There are approximately 7.3 million acres of wetlands in the PPR and only about 1.5 million acres are perpetually protected. The 1.4 million acres of wetlands at greatest risk (surrounded by cropland) and in most need of protection are also of highest value to breeding waterfowl. Swampbuster has been in law for 20 years and is the only disincentive keeping the "at risk" wetlands from being lost. Many of the other remaining wetlands are located within native prairie or CRP grasslands and are vulnerable to loss or degradation if the surrounding grasslands are converted. The USFWS estimates breeding waterfowl populations in the PPR would be reduced by 38% with the loss of these "at-risk" wetlands.

Background on Other Programs   Farm Bill Priorities