Last Call: Who Wants a Farm Bill that Works for Wildlife?
Sisyphus was a king from Greek mythology who was punished by the gods by being forced eternally to push a massive boulder up a hill; each time, as the boulder nearly reached the top, it would roll back down. For the past 3 years, lawmakers and lobbyists who have been trying to get a farm bill passed can sympathize with Sisyphus.
But the farm bill is closer to the top of the Hill than ever; members of the House and Senate are beginning conference meetings this week to work out the differences between their respective versions of the farm bill, so that Congress can vote on the final.
I can’t stress enough the importance of this bill to wildlife and conservation in general. It is vitally important that a farm bill passes. Millions of acres of wildlife habitat on working farm land are funded by the farm bill and with each delay, thousands of acres are lost that could have been enrolled in voluntary conservation programs.
However, unless the farm bill contains certain key provisions, even more critical wildlife habitat will continue to be at risk of destruction, and taxpayers like you and me will be inadvertently paying for wetlands and native grasslands to be plowed under. Unless the final farm bill reconnects conservation compliance to crop insurance and contains a national Sodsaver provision, then landowners will be free to take advantage of millions of dollars of subsidies with no strings attached. Conservation compliance and Sodsaver are NWF’s top farm bill priorities.As farm bill negotiations kick off this week, a diverse group of 278 wildlife, sportsmen, water, and agriculture groups from across the country sent members of the farm bill conference committee a letter expressing their support for conservation compliance and a national sodsaver provision.
“…the undersigned groups, representing millions of members across the country, urge you protect grasslands, wetlands, healthy soil and clean water by supporting a national sodsaver provision and re-coupling basic soil and water conservation measures to premium subsidies for crop insurance. Both of these provisions, included in the Senate bill, ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to incentivize risky or environmentally destructive practices. Conservation compliance and sodsaver are among the top farm bill priorities for our groups, and both will be determining factors as we consider our support for a final bill,” states the letter.
But such strong support from so many groups does not guarantee that lawmakers will do the right thing. Some members of the conference committee, like Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are strong supporters of getting good conservation provisions in the final farm bill. Others, like House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), strongly oppose attaching any strings to farm subsidies. Crop insurance is very important to many farmers, but subsidizing crop insurance will not benefit the public unless we ask for good stewardship in return.
It is our responsibility to protect our land, water, and wildlife for future generations.
Please make sure that your lawmakers know farm bill conservation is important to you. Send that message to Farm Bill conferees from your state.