WASHINGTON – April 26, 2012 – Ducks Unlimited announced its support and appreciation of the Senate Agricultural Committee today as it passed the 2012 Farm Bill out of committee. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote, although the timing is unclear. The bipartisan Farm Bill maintains a strong conservation title, including continuation of the Conservation Reserve Program, as well as the introduction of a new conservation easement program with a strong wetland component, a regional partnership program aimed at improving water quality and a Sodsaver provision.
"DU is very pleased with the cooperation and bipartisanship from Chairwoman Stabenow (MI) and Ranking Member Roberts (KS) in crafting a Farm Bill that maintains a strong conservation title," said DU CEO Dale Hall. "The committee has done an impressive job of putting forth a bill that ensures a strong agricultural economy and helps conserves soil, water and wildlife."
While DU is pleased with this initial framework, the organization remains concerned about maintaining strong protections for critical wetlands, as well as advancing protections for native grasslands on continentally important landscapes, such as the Prairie Pothole Region in the Dakotas.
"Wetlands are critical not only as waterfowl and other wildlife habitat, but also to help improve water quality and reduce flooding for downstream residents," said DU Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt. "As the world leader in wetlands conservation, DU and our more than 1 million supporters and partners stand ready to work with Congress to maintain strong wetland protections, which are critical to the future of continental waterfowl populations and our nation's hunting heritage."
DU is pleased that Stabenow and Roberts included a Sodsaver provision, authored by Sens. Thune (SD) and Johanns (NE). The provision is aimed at protecting native grassland on high-risk landscapes from being converted by reducing federal support on any new cropland acres that are put into production as a result of breaking grassland that had no previous cropping history.
"What Senators Thune and Bennet have proposed is more critical today than ever," Schmidt said. "The rate at which native grassland, particularly in our nation's prairies, is being converted rivals any in recent history. The results could be disastrous for this continent's waterfowl and wildlife. The bipartisan support for Sodsaver is encouraging, and we hope it becomes a permanent feature of the bill as it moves through the legislative process."
Agriculture is only part of the far-reaching legislation. The Farm Bill sets policies that dictate a wide array of programs including forestry, food assistance and conservation.
"The Farm Bill is 2 percent of the federal budget, and the conservation title is only 7 percent of that," Schmidt said. "As small as that portion of the budget is, it makes up some of our most important conservation programs, including easement programs and programs that support conscientious farming practices. The Conservation Reserve Program, for instance, allows farmers to take land out of production in order to plant grass or other erosion control. The impact on water quality is astounding, and the zones provide nesting habitat for an abundance of waterfowl and other species."
"DU looks forward to working with the full Senate and the House as the 2012 Farm Bill moves ahead," Schmidt continued. "DU remains committed to playing a critical and supportive role to ensure the Farm Bill conservation title gives agricultural producers the programs and tools they need to manage and maintain productive soil and water resources, while generating benefits for waterfowl, hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers."
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, DU is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, with special events, projects and promotions across the continent. Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 12 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Connect with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/ducksunlimited, follow our tweets at twitter.com/ducksunlimited and watch DU videos at youtube.com/ducksunlimitedinc.