Increases to conservation a positive step, but more work remains
WASHINGTON, October 24, 2007 – Conservationists raised their voices for conservation in the farm bill, and the Senate Agriculture Committee listened, allocating more than $3 billion for agriculture conservation in the 2007 Farm Bill.
The voice of America’s sportsmen and women had a profound impact on the course of the 2007 Farm Bill recently, when more than 30 conservation groups launched a Commit to Conservation campaign. Representing America’s 87 million sportsmen, as well as industry and state wildlife agencies, the groups joined forces to pressure the Senate to provide at least $6 billion for conservation programs in the bill.
Ducks Unlimited applauds the positive steps taken by the Senate Agriculture Committee to fund conservation programs in response to the push from sportsmen. “We were concerned that conservation may be cut to fund other aspects of the bill, resulting in a step backward for America’s conservation efforts,” said Barton James, director of agriculture conservation policy for Ducks Unlimited.
Thirty-four groups, including Ducks Unlimited, the National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever, the National Rifle Association and the Association for Fish and Wildlife Agencies urged their membership to take action and call their Senators to tell them to support farm bill conservation programs. The groups also ran an ad in Roll Call, the most read newspaper by Members of Congress, urging the Senate to provide $6 billion in conservation funding in the farm bill.
“Ducks Unlimited appreciates the level of funding the committee was able to agree on for conservation,” James said. “We cannot afford to let the funding levels for these programs drop, and we will continue to work with the Senate to make conservation a priority.”
Proposals had been floated to cut conservation funding to pay for experimental pilot programs. “Conservation programs are not a piggy bank that can be raided whenever there is a new idea,” James said. “The U.S. is losing more than 80,000 acres of wetlands each year. Conservation needs all of the money it gets.”
The bill will now move to the Senate floor for consideration. After passage, Members of the House and Senate will conference to iron out unsettled differences in the respective versions of the bill.
The Senate’s version of the farm bill includes a stronger Sodsaver provision, which would eliminate farm program payments on newly converted land that has never been cropped. The Wetlands Reserve Program would be funded to enroll 250,000 new acres of wetlands every year, with the national cap being increased to 3.5 million acres, up from 2.75 million acres. However, an appraisal issue harming the program’s enrollment is still unresolved.
The Conservation Reserve Program would be authorized for 39.2 million acres, which is the same number that the House authorized, and the Grasslands Reserve Programs was funded at a similar level as the House.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with almost 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.
For more information on DU’s farm bill priorities: www.ducks.org/farmbill