WASHINGTON – After months of behind-closed-door debate and negotiation, the U.S. House of Representatives has named its members chosen to take part in the House-Senate conference to negotiate a final version of the Farm Bill with the U.S. Senate. The latest extension of the 2002 Farm Bill expires on April 18, so the conferees must agree to a final bill and pass it through the full House and Senate or extend the previous bill again.
“We are glad to see Congress stepping forward on this bill – we hope that they will show similar initiative in ensuring that programs like the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) remain as viable options for farmers and ranchers to conserve their land,” said Don Young, Executive Vice President for Ducks Unlimited. “Sportsmen contribute more than $76 billion to the economy every year, and protecting habitat through agriculture conservation is absolutely critical to ensuring that future generations of outdoor enthusiasts have healthy habitats and clean waters to enjoy the outdoors.”
More than half of the landmass in the United States is used for agricultural production, so it is appropriate that the Farm Bill represents the largest single federal investment to conservation on private land. These programs provide tremendous societal and economic benefits to all Americans in the form of improved soil and water quality, healthy fish and wildlife habitat, enhanced forest/wildlife benefits, rural economic stimuli, and quality hunting and fishing opportunities. Without a Farm Bill Conservation Title, there would be:
- 170,000 additional miles of unprotected streams
- 48 million more tons of carbon dioxide in our air
- 450 million tons more topsoil disappearing every year
- 2.2 million fewer ducks
- 13.5 million fewer pheasants
- 40 million fewer acres of wildlife habitat.
“As the debate moves forward, Ducks Unlimited’s one million members and supporters want to make sure those statistics do not become a reality,” said Young. “As a nation, we cannot afford to see the programs cut or scaled back.”
Also in the current Farm Bill debate, Congress has the opportunity to protect millions of acres of native prairie through the “Sodsaver” provision. America’s native prairies are one of the most endangered ecosystems in the world. In addition to adding protection to native prairie, the provision that was adopted in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill will save American taxpayers $119 million dollars.
The 2002 Farm Bill was set to expire in September 2007. It has been extended twice by Congress since then, although no additional acres were added to conservation programs, such as the Grasslands Reserve Program, that had already reached enrollment caps.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization with more than 12 million acres conserved. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands − nature’s most productive ecosystem − and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.