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Farm Bill Agreement Reached, Awaits House Vote

After a long two years of debate, a new Farm Bill appears to be on the horizon.

After a long two years of debate, a new Farm Bill appears to be on the horizon.

Yesterday, the long-anticipated farm bill showed signs of life as House and Senate conferees reached a bipartisan agreement to move the bill forward.  In fact, the House may have a vote on the farm bill by the end of Wednesday.  After clearing the House, the bill will move to the Senate.

The bill addresses Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s top grassland and wildlife priorities including the following:

  • Conservation compliance connected to crop insurance.
  • A regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies.  States included are South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska.  We are pleased to have these important tools to protect America’s last remaining virgin prairies available in these critical pheasant states right away.
  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  While the total authorization of acres will gradually decrease to 24 million acres by FY18, we do have some new tools included to help us target the most environmentally sensitive acres that will best produce water, soil and wildlife benefits.  In fact, one particular change to CRP will allow us to enroll up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
  • $40 million in funding for voluntary public hunting access programs (VPA-HIP).
  • A new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.

It’s been an arduous two year road to get us to this point.  I won’t pretend this Farm Bill is going to be perfect by anyone’s standards; however, it does address our core conservation concerns.  The danger in not passing a farm bill at this point would be catastrophic for wildlife and water quality as all our favorite conservation programs, like CRP, would be shut down for the foreseeable future. Given the current state of habitat loss, our nation’s wildlife cannot withstand additional time without access to conservation programs.  Let’s get this farm bill passed and begin working on returning habitat back to the landscape this spring.

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

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