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Second half of 113th Congress looks more promising for sportsmen

Farm bill close to being finalized
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While there isn’t much good news for sportsmen to report from 2013, the second half the 113th congressional session has begun and it’s shaping up to have more potential.

Appropriations

The president signed the end-of-the-year budget agreement into law, which allowed the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to release FY14 appropriations bills, which determine discretionary funding. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Barbara Mikulski (MD) and House Chair Hal Rogers (KY) announced an omnibus bill of all 12 FY14 appropriations bills late Tuesday, Jan. 13. The passage of the appropriations bills, coupled with the passed budget, will set the stage of normal order in Congress – which means no new threat of a government shutdown. 

Key partnership programs such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Fund, and state wildlife grants all received critical funding in the omnibus bill. Sportsmen successfully advocated a $30 billion allocation for the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014. Read more from our press release.

Farm Bill

It’s been a long road for the farm bill, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. A conference committee of House and Senate leaders has been working to finalize a five-year farm bill, which expired on Sept. 30, 2013 after already getting a nine-month extension.

The four primary negotiators, Sens. Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Thad Cochran (MS) and Reps. Frank Lucas (OK) and Collin Peterson (MN), have been working closely to secure a compromise between the House- and Senate-passed bills. With much hard work, a comprehensive five-year farm bill looks poised to be passed by February, and it has the potential to be the best farm bill for sportsmen in quite some time.

DU has been advocating for a strong conservation title which would include:
  1. Re-coupling conservation compliance to crop insurance in order to conserve wetlands and highly erodible soils; 
  2. Establishing a Sodsaver program in order to conserve native prairie and other significant grassland habitat; and 
  3. Holding the line on conservation cuts at $6 billion over the 10 year budget life of the bill. 
With the appropriations bills and farm bill potentially being finalized in the coming weeks, DU and the rest of the conservation and sportsmen community can start working with Congress on other priorities, such as increasing the price of the federal duck stamp and FY15 appropriations for vital conservation programs. Stay tuned and check the website for updates.

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