The Senate today passed the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (the Farm Bill) by a vote of 64-35. The conservation programs in the bill were funded at more than $57 billion dollars over ten years, a decrease of $6 billion from the 2008 Farm Bill. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell from Washington voted in support of the bill.
The Farm Bill covers a wide range of agricultural issues, including conservation. In fact, The Nature Conservancy considers the Farm Bill the most important legislation for conserving private lands in America.
“We care about the Farm Bill because we care about the environment and Washington’s natural resources,” said Len Barson, interim director for the Conservancy in Washington. “Our thanks to Senators Murray and Cantwell for their leadership on maintaining conservation funding in the bill.”
“This year's Farm Bill is a victory for Washington state, our farmers, and our economy - and I was proud to support it. It makes important investments in jobs, provides meaningful support for our growers, and streamlines conservation programs while continuing funding for these critical programs,” said Senator Murray. “I was proud to support this year's Farm Bill to create jobs and tackle the deficit, and I am especially pleased this bill passed with the bipartisan efforts of 64 Senators."
“This bill provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and other private landowners that result in cleaner water, improved soil conservation, enhanced wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities, increased flood control and economic benefits for local communities and rural economies,” Barson said. “And, importantly, these programs help Washington’s farmers, ranchers, and private forest land owners to stay on the land as stewards of America’s natural resources.”
The bill passed today includes support for conservation provisions in three key priority areas: successful and sought-after easement programs, effective working lands programs and partnership programs that leverage cooperative efforts to accomplish conservation in larger landscapes.
Washington has benefited especially from federal investments in the Conservation Reserve Program, which is critical to preservation of shrub steppe habitat in Central Washington. Also, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) have allowed for significant federal and local land owner partnerships in this state to protect important farmland, water quality, and wildlife habitat.
“We are grateful for the Senate’s action today, and particularly appreciate the support of Senators Murray and Cantwell. We encourage Washington’s representatives to support similar legislation so a new Farm Bill can be enacted this year. The House of Representatives should hold the line on funding for the Conservation Title of the Farm Bill. Any cuts to conservation funding below the Senate-approved amounts would jeopardize this country’s entire system of successful agricultural and forestry conservation programs,” concluded Barson. “It is time to move ahead on a Farm Bill with conservation programs that serve not only this, but future generations of Americans.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.