5 Ways the New Farm Bill is Good for Wildlife

from Wildlife Promise

The 2014 Farm Bill is closer than ever to becoming law; yesterday, House and Senate Agriculture committee leaders agreed on a final version of the farm bill that is a good compromise between the different versions of the farm bill that passed in 2013. The House of Representatives will vote on the new bill tomorrow, and the Senate is expected to vote later this week or next. If the final version passes both chambers, then all it needs is President Obama’s signature to become law. NWF supports the compromise that came out of the conference committee and we urge you to ask your member of Congress to support the bill. Here’s why:

1. A New Provision to Protect Wetlands

A ruddy duck in Henry’s Lake, Idaho. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant John Gerlach.

A ruddy duck in Henry’s Lake, Idaho. Photo by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant John Gerlach.

Wetlands are critically important wildlife habitat. The new farm bill closes a loophole that would have allowed crop insurance to incentivize wetland drainage. By requiring conservation compliance in exchange for crop insurance premium subsidies, the new bill insures that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill for private landowners to convert wetlands into farmland. This is great news for all the fish, amphibians, birds and mammals that rely on wetlands for survival.

2. Guarding Against Dust Bowl 2

Photo: flickr, Patrick Emerson

Flickr photo by Patrick Emerson

The Dust Bowl was terrible for wildlife and humans and was in large part caused by poor farming practices. Since then, farmers and agricultural experts have learned a lot about how to prevent soil erosion, using practices like cover crops and maintaining riparian areas near streams. Conservation compliance ensures that farmers who plant crops on highly erodible land use a conservation plan to reduce soil erosion – which in turn reduces toxic runoff into the waterways where sea otters and other marine animals live. The new farm bill will ensure that conservation applies to crop insurance, just in the nick of time. Crop insurance is now the largest subsidy in the farm bill, and it is important that it does not incentivize a second Dust Bowl.

 3. New Protection for Grasslands in the Prairie Potholes and Great Plains

Photo: flickr, Matthew Paulson

Prairie dogs in Wind Canyon National Park. Flickr photo by Matthew Paulson.

America’s grasslands are a unique and amazing landscape, but they are rapidly disappearing; our few remaining prairies are in danger of being plowed up and planted to crops. Sodsaver is a new provision that limits subsidies for farming on previously unplowed grassland. Although the new farm bill limits Sodsaver to only 6 states (ND, SD, IA, MN, MT, and NE), those states are important wildlife habitat for ducks, geese and other waterfowl in the Prairies Pothole Region and Great Plains. We hope that this provision can eventually be expanded to cover all states with native grasslands.

4. Funding for Cool Conservation Programs on Farm Land

Photo: flickr, NRCS Oregon. Farmer plans best way to use EQIP funds for wildlife.

Farmer plans best way to use EQIP funds for wildlife. Flickr photo by NRCS Oregon.

One of the best ways to protect wildlife on working lands is to engage farmers and private landowners in the process. The new farm bill provides funding for programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and an awesome new Regional Conservation Partnership Program which provides funding for farmers to install new conservation practices and get the technical assistance they need to make farmland more wildlife-friendly.

5. Funding for Alternative Energy Programs

Photo: flickr, USDA

Switchgrass. Flickr photo by USDA

Climate change is one of the greatest threats to wildlife like the polar bear, pika and puffin. One way to fight climate change is to look for alternatives to fossil fuels, such as biomass energy from native grasses planted on farmland and leftover crop residue. The farm bill energy title funds programs like the Biomass Crop Assistance Program, which invests in a future that is less dependent on big oil.

What You Can Do:

Share this post on Twitter and Facebook (use the buttons above), and consider sending your Senator a tweet in support of the bill, including the #2014FarmBill hashtag. You can find a list of Congressional twitter handles here.  Here are some suggested tweets you can send (just insert your senator’s twitter handle for the generic handles).

The #2014FarmBill provides $57 billion for conservation to help farmers protect soil, water, & wildlife, @Senator Vote Yes!

It’s been a long wait for the #2014FarmBill, @Senator . Wildlife need you to vote Yes!

Here are 5 Reasons the New Farm Bill is Good for Wildlife: http://bit.ly/Mr2fKs @Senator you should vote Yes!

. @Senator it’s been a long wait for the #2014FarmBill – don’t let wildlife and farmers down, vote Yes!

UPDATE 01/29/2014:

The Farm Bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 251-166.   Click this link to see who voted yes and no in the House so you can thank your representative if he/she voted for the farm bill. Next, this bill needs to pass the Senate, so please urge your Senator to vote yes!

UPDATE 02/06/2014:

The Farm Bill also passed the Senate on 02/04/2014 by a vote of 68-32.  Check here to see if your Senator voted yes or no, and feel free to drop them a thank you note, call, or tweet. Read our press release and final blog recapping the farm bill, to learn all you need to know about why this is a great win for wildlife.