DU supporters help strengthen conservation in 2007 farm bill

House passes legislation, Senate is next step

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2007 – The U.S. House of Representatives last week passed the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the 2007 farm bill (H.R. 2419). Ducks Unlimited supported the bill throughout its debate and passage. The strong voices of DU supporters for conservation were certainly heard during the crafting of the bill.

“Many positive things for conservation were included in the House-passed bill, because DU members contacted their members of Congress,” said Ducks Unlimited’s Director of Agriculture Conservation Policy Bart James. “Amendments that could have hurt conservation were pulled back without being offered.”

This farm bill is the federal government’s greatest investment in conservation. The House-passed version of the bill has several good programs for wildlife conservation.

• Wetlands Reserve Program: The House version includes $1.6 billion to fully fund the program through 2012. Also, a land appraisal issue that recently discouraged landowners from participating in the program would be improved. New payment limits for conservation would not apply to the program, making it better for waterfowl and landowners.

• Sodsaver:  This provision would create new protection for the last native prairie remaining in America. It would help conserve America’s most fragile ecosystem and an important waterfowl breeding area. Under the provision, landowners couldn’t get insurance on native prairie lands plowed for crop production.

• Conservation Reserve Program: The program cap would be maintained at 39.2 million acres. This is a strong starting point that DU will use to help ensure the Prairie Pothole Region’s “duck factory” is made a national priority area for this incredibly effective program.

• Open Fields:  A $20 million grant program would be established to encourage landowners to provide public hunting and fishing access on their conservation lands.

• Biomass Reserve Program:  This new program would encourage the production of waterfowl-friendly energy crops, like switchgrass, to produce alternative fuels like ethanol.

• Grasslands Reserve Program: An increase in acreage would provide incentives to protect native grasslands for waterfowl breeding habitat.

“The House’s version of the farm bill is a strong starting point for the Senate to begin its work on the bill. We congratulate the House Agriculture Committee on its successful work on the bill,” James said. “Ducks Unlimited will continue to press for conservation programs that collectively benefit waterfowl, other wildlife and farmers. That’s why we continue to say ‘Farm the best. Conserve the rest.’ We look forward to expanding and protecting conservation in the farm bill as the Senate begins its work.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee begins its work on its version of the bill following Congress’ August recess.

DU will continue to inform supporters of the latest developments. DU members should let their senators know of their strong support for the Wetlands Reserve Program and that other essential conservation programs that benefit waterfowl and landowners are included in the bill.

To stay up to date on DU’s latest public policy news, please visit www.ducks.org.

Contact: Rachel Dawson
(202) 347-1530

With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 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.