Strong Conservation Title, but Forestry Title Falls Short in Farm Bill
ARLINGTON, VA. | April 12, 2018
The U.S. House Agriculture Committee today introduced the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, more commonly known as the Farm Bill. It includes a conservation title that funds voluntary, incentive-based sustainability programs for America’s farmers that strengthen agricultural and working lands. This title is the largest federal funding source for conservation on private lands.
“We’re pleased to see robust funding in the Farm Bill’s conservation title, but we see real challenges in some proposals to undercut environmental reviews in the forestry title,” said Lynn Scarlett, co-chief external affairs officer at The Nature Conservancy.
The conservation title includes provisions that would improve soil health on a greater number of acres, increase the flexibility and direct resources going toward public-private partnerships, and restore funding for permanent easements that enhance and protect agricultural land from conversion to other uses.
“The Farm Bill’s conservation title programs are critical for ensuring healthy and productive rural lands, a strong economy and thriving communities,” Scarlett said. “These programs will lead to cleaner water, healthier soils, enhanced wildlife habitat, more outdoor recreation opportunities and increased flood control in communities across America. The Farm Bill’s conservation title provides farmers, ranchers and forest landowners with the tools necessary to protect and conserve not only the land but also their way of life.”
However, the forestry title of the Farm Bill contains several provisions that would reduce consideration of environmental impacts and limit opportunities for public input.
“Although several provisions would advance state and private forestry, too many proposals in the forestry title would undermine the framework of our nation’s federal forest management laws,” said Scarlett. “We strongly oppose provisions that would undercut fundamental environmental laws such as the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act. We do look forward to working with the House on restoring the funding cap for the popular Forest Legacy program.”
About half the land in the contiguous U.S.—nearly 900 million acres—is cropland, rangeland, forestland or pastureland that is eligible for programs funded by the conservation title of the Farm Bill. The bill must be reauthorized every five years.
“All Americans need a Farm Bill—we all need healthy food, clean water, strong communities and a robust economy,” concluded Scarlett. “There is a lot of work to do before the Farm Bill expires. Lawmakers have a responsibility to work together to pass a Farm Bill with strong conservation and forestry provisions.”
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.