Washington, DC – Thanks to sportsmen-legislators, hunters in rural America can look forward to their local farmers continuing to set aside acres of habitat for wildlife. Increased funding measures for America’s vital conservation programs for the next five years are contained in the oft-extended Farm Bill Reauthorization overwhelmingly passed by the House and Senate, now awaiting the President’s signature. The release of a Conference Report last week signaled that an agreement was reached by conferees who worked out the differences between the House and Senate versions. The House and Senate both voted overwhelmingly to approve the measure and will send the bill to the President to sign into law. The question is, will he?
Of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, twenty of the twenty-six conferees that hammered out the final compromise are members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC). CSC members who held their ground for the conservation title in the Farm Bill included the House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte (R-VA); the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-GA).
Although CSF is still combing through the details, the good news for sportsmen is, in the end, conservation programs that enjoyed increased funding in both the House and Senate versions were left nearly intact, coming in at $4-billion dollars above the Administration’s baseline, highlighting the importance of the conservation programs to the committee members. The compromise process was often complicated by the differences in the House and Senate versions, the complexity of the issues and how to find enough money to pay for the subsidies. Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus strove to preserve the increased conservation funding in the final version.
“The Farm Bill is a tremendous victory for sportsmen and conservationists across the country,” said U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “This farm bill continues to help producers be good stewards of the land by providing $4 billion in new resources for conservation programs. I look forward to completing the farm bill in order to see the investments we make today through our conservation partnership with this nation’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners deliver benefits for our country for generations to come.”
The 2007 Farm Bill is the most important funding bill for private land conservation programs in America. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus worked diligently to increasefunding for conservation programs in the final version. Funding priorities included such programs as Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and Open Fields.
“The conference report makes significant investments in our conservation priorities,” U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln said. “I am proud of the investment of $1.3 billion in the Wetlands Reserve Program, which will help expand habitat for North American waterfowl. This investment is particularly important in Arkansas as one of the largest wetland conservation areas in the nation. I urge the President to sign this conference report, which will help us to continue to enjoy the land that we love and help us leave our children with the environment they deserve.”
“The Food, Conservation and Energy Act” is a great victory for outdoorsmen and wildlife advocates. It improves and expands popular conservation programs, including Environmental Quality Incentive Program, Farm Protection Program, and the Wetlands Reserve Program, and it creates a new Open Fields Program to encourage public access to private land for hunters and anglers,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN). “I am proud of these accomplishments and appreciate the hard work of conservation and wildlife advocates whose tireless efforts played an integral role in this successful Farm Bill.”
The ‘Open Fields’ $50M funding source is crucial for enhancing public access to private lands. Originally introduced in the Senate by CSC member Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), Open Fields will boost state programs that are designed to expand sportsmen’s access and the use of best management practices for fish and wildlife habitat improvement.
Language that provides tax incentives for landowners who allow access to their lands has been a priority of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, working with the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus since the beginning of the reauthorization process. The Farm Bill includes language for a 2-year extension of tax incentives for conservation easements that were approved by Congress in 2006. This provision provides tax deductions to landowners who enter into irrevocable conservation easements on their properties. A provision for tax credits for eligible landowners entering into a conservation easement for habitat protection and/or restoration for endangered species was also included in the bill.
About the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF)
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is the most respected and trusted proponent for hunters and fishermen in the political arena. With support from every major hunting and fishing organization, CSF is the leader in promoting sportsmen’s issues with elected officials. CSF works directly with the bi-partisan, bi-cameral Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus in the U.S. Congress, as well as affiliated state sportsmen’s caucuses in state legislatures around the country. For additional information, visit www.sportsmenslink.org or call 202-543-6850.