The Nature Conservancy Supports Senate Agriculture Committee Proposal for the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill
The Conservancy has reviewed the language and released a statement from Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations.
Arlington, Virginia | April 23, 2012
Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee released the Conservation Title of the U.S. Farm Bill. The Nature Conservancy has reviewed the language, and released the following statement today from Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations at the Conservancy:
"A strong Farm Bill and Conservation Title are necessary if we are going to meet our nation’s increasing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel. The Nature Conservancy believes that the Senate Agriculture Committee has done an excellent job in drafting a Conservation Title that keeps intact and, in a number of places, improves upon programs that play an essential role in conserving America’s soil, water and wildlife habitat. This bill recognizes the critical role that America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters play as stewards of our country’s natural resources and continues the productive partnerships between the Department of Agriculture and private landowners to accomplish that stewardship.
"We are grateful to Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Roberts and their staffs for their determined work in achieving this positive result. The Committee and its staff worked in a bipartisan manner to reach out to many stakeholders to produce legislation that, overall, we support strongly.
“Of particular importance to the Conservancy are:
- The inclusion of Easement Programs (Wetlands Reserve, Grasslands Reserve, Farm and Ranchland Protection Program) that, while consolidated, continue at a reasonable level for the next five years given the budget constraints faced by the Committee. These programs have been successful and are in great demand by landowners. The new bill offers additional flexibility to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in administering the easement programs, which should increase program effectiveness and make the programs more user-friendly. We hope, as the process of approving a Farm Bill continues, that the provisions for providing match by landowners can be given even more flexibility.
- Maintaining Cost Share Programs (such as the Environmental Quality Improvement Program) that assist landowners in improved management and restoration of their land to protect natural resources.
- Placing even more emphasis on partnership programs that bring together NRCS, non-governmental organizations and landowners in cooperative efforts to accomplish conservation in larger landscapes that are particularly important for water quality or wildlife habitat.
“Given the severe financial constraints placed on the bill by last year’s Budget Control Act, drafting this legislation was a challenge. In order for the great promise and benefits of the proposed Conservation Title to be realized, it is essential that reductions in funding to the overall bill be held to levels reflected in this bill. There are large backlogs for participating in conservation easement programs, and there have already been significant reductions in Farm Bill conservation programs in recent years through changes in mandatory programs. Further cuts would severely damage the proven ability of the Farm Bill to provide essential long term benefits to the American people and the American farm and forest communities for natural resources conservation, food security and economic stability.”
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