The Farm Bill is the nation’s largest investment in the voluntary and successful conservation, restoration and management of America’s private lands.
The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal funding for conserving, restoring and managing private land, including grasslands, forests, ranchlands and croplands, in the United States. Over 70% of the land in the lower 48 is privately owned, making it eligible for Farm Bill programs that help spur healthier soils, cleaner water, carbon sequestration and habitat conservation.
The bill supports voluntary, incentive-based programs that help farmers and other landowners conserve their land and way of life while addressing climate change. From incentivizing climate-smart agricultural practices to opening doors for permanent conservation through agricultural conservation easements, this critical bipartisan legislation provides $6 billion annually for conservation that benefits every single state in the country.
The Farm Bill Impacts All Americans
Farmers and ranchers have voluntarily enrolled 140 million acres in conservation programs through the Farm Bill
Jobs supported by the agriculture industry
In the lower 48 states, 70% of land is privately owned and eligible for Farm Bill programs.
In the U.S, there are 2 million farms covering 475 million acres of land.
Policy Recommendations for the Next Farm Bill
Conservation opportunities that build resilient communities and stronger rural economies.
Bolster Regenerative Agriculture
Agriculture is on the frontlines of climate change as farmers and ranchers endure increasingly frequent and extreme weather events that threaten their livelihoods and our food supply. Incentivizing regenerative agriculture practices and increasing technical support can help farmers, ranchers and landowners better meet the challenges of the climate crisis.
Conserve Significant and Sensitive Habitats
Grasslands are critical for livestock agriculture and happen to be one of the most effective carbon sinks. The Farm Bill can help ensure farmers, ranchers and landowners conserve the lands that provide their livelihoods in ways that benefit them and help the address the climate, water and biodiversity challenges.
Accelerate a Clean Energy Transition
We need to rapidly scale climate solutions, including clean energy. A robust Farm Bill guarantees rural America a say in renewable energy deployment by funding and facilitating farmer, rancher and landowner participation in the clean energy economy while maintaining their working lands.
Promote Equity and Inclusion
Institutional and structural barriers have prevented socially disadvantaged farmers, ranchers, foresters and underserved communities from accessing Farm Bill programs. The Farm Bill presents a significant opportunity to center equity in conservation by increasing and improving access to Farm Bill programs and funding
Maintain Healthy and Resilient Forests
America’s forests are disappearing at an alarming rate. Without stronger conservation policies, we could lose even more. We're advocating for growing programs that promote ecologically beneficial forest management policies and combat commodity-driven deforestation so American farmers can compete on the global market.
Early morning aerial photograph of the landscape, forest and farm fields along the Snake River north of Mora, Minnesota.
The Farm Bill is one of our biggest opportunities to make meaningful, substantial gains for conservation.
The 2018 Farm Bill was the most conservation-focused yet, increasing funding for easements that help farmers conserve their lands, enacting new policies to improve the management of private forest lands, and many other steps.
Congress only renews the Farm Bill every five years, so we need to build on the success of 2018 to prioritize conservation while supporting the rural communities that care for and work on these lands.
In November 2023, Congress voted to extend the current Farm Bill for one year – until September 30, 2024. Farm Bill programs have been in limbo since the bill expired at the end of September so this extension ensures there will not be a gap in funding for programs that support farmers, ranchers and conservation efforts across the country.
As Congress continues to debate these vital measures, we urge them to invest in a Farm Bill that will support healthy food and soils, clean water, strong communities and a robust economy.
Go Deeper: How the U.S. Farm Bill Supports our Policy Priorities
- Download TNC's Fact Sheet on the Farm Bill (.pdf)
- Conserving and Protecting Grasslands (.pdf)
- Promoting Regenerative Agriculture Practices (.pdf)
- Increasing Equity and Inclusion through the Farm Bill (.pdf)
- Improving Water Quality and Supply (.pdf)
- Restoring Healthy and Resilient Forests (.pdf)
- Accelerating the Clean Energy Transition (.pdf)
Critical Farm Bill Programs and Policies
Regional Conservation Partnership Program
Increasing the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water and other natural resources on a scale large enough to make a significant impact is daunting at times—but it’s important work that benefits us all. The best approach is often working with partners in strategic areas to address the most critical conservation needs with as many hands as possible.
The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill, makes this approach possible. Starting with federal resources, RCPP brings new partners and new funding to the conservation table, maximizing the impact.
RCPP empowers communities and drives public-private partnerships to find local, innovative solutions to complex natural resource challenges for watersheds and landscapes. To date, RCPP has mobilized more than 2,000 conservation partners who have invested about $1.4 billion, doubling the amount of federal funding for these projects.
Conservation easements are one of the most potent and practical tools available for the permanent conservation of private lands in the United States. They are voluntary, legally binding agreements that limit certain types of uses or prevent development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future, protecting the property’s ecological and open space values.
For more than 40 years, easements have protected wildlife habitat and open space from development, kept land in private hands and generated significant benefits for the public.
The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program in the Farm Bill includes two vital components: Agricultural Land Easements and Wetlands Reserve Easements. Agricultural Land Easements protect the long-term viability of the nation’s food supply by preventing the conversion of productive working lands to non-agricultural uses, while Wetlands Reserve Easements improve water quality and supply, provide habitat for fish and wildlife and support outdoor recreation.
Healthy soil is the cornerstone of life on Earth. It facilitates ecosystem diversity, amplifies food production, allows for effective water filtration and storage and captures soil carbon, which helps reduce the impacts of increasingly variable weather patterns.
The Farm Bill helps improve soil health by increasing the number of acres managed with soil health and nutrient stewardship practices through programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
Suppose farmers can manage nutrients more efficiently to reduce runoff and restore wetlands to capture nutrients escaping their fields. In that case, it will lead to cleaner waterways and drinking water. And, since excessive nutrient runoff from farms and other sources contributes to algal blooms, it would slow the growth of dead zones that contaminate drinking water and suffocate aquatic life.