Farm Bill passes Congress, awaits Trump’s signature

According to reports, the Conservation Reserve Program will provide contracts for 27 million acres of private land by 2023, allocating around $2 billion annually for farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from their agricultural production in order to improve the land quality.

After weeks of discussion between U.S. House and Senate conferees, the 2018 Farm Bill Conference Report has officially passed Congress, according to reports.

The bipartisan legislation now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law, which is expected to happen sometime next week, reports said.

Notable provisions within the Farm Bill, according to reports:

  • The Conservation Reserve Program will provide contracts for 27 million acres of private land by 2023, allocating around $2 billion annually for farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from their agricultural production in order to improve the land quality.
  • The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program will provide $450 million per year (totaling $2.25 billion over five years) for financial assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands.
  • The Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP) will include $50 million total to enable state/tribal governments to increase public access to private lands for recreational opportunities and enhance fish/wildlife habitats.
  • The Environmental Quality Incentives Program will allocate $9.2 billion over five years to allow agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices to improve soil, water, and fish and wildlife habitat.
  • Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which will provide $300 million annually ($1.5 billion total), the Natural Resources Conservation Service will help producers increase restoration and sustainable use of natural resources by implementing and maintaining conservation projects on select areas.
  • The Conservation Stewardship Program will allocate $3.9 billion over five years to help agricultural producers maintain and improve existing conservation systems; with payments increased based on conservation project performance.

This followed Senate passage Tuesday, Dec. 11 and House of Representatives passage Wednesday, Dec. 12 of the bill, also known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The action was immediately lauded by outdoors-related groups.

“On behalf of the more than one million members and supporters of Ducks Unlimited, we’d like to thank Congress for their steadfast support of our nation’s wetlands and waterfowl through the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall. “By providing full-funding for the conservation title, Congress ensures these voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs will continue to create opportunities to work with farmers, ranchers and landowners across the country. Without their cooperation, Ducks Unlimited could not reach our goal of filling the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever.”

“We are especially pleased that this new bill includes key conservation measures for forest, grassland, wetland and other wildlife habitats,” said James L. Cummins, co-chairman of the Boone and Crockett Club’s Conservation Policy Committee.

“CSF applauds Farm Bill 2018 conferees for recognizing the need for the strong conservation title that benefits fish and wildlife resources as well as access for sportsmen and women,” said Jeff Crane, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation president. “CSF was proud to be an active partner in ensuring the Farm Bill conservation legacy continues.”

“This Farm Bill marks a victory for birds and the conservation work of farmers and landowners, and utilizing the RCPP, we can better target conservation efforts to bird species most in need,” said Steve Holmer, vice president of policy for the American Bird Conservancy. “The final agreement also dropped numerous harmful provisions affecting federal forests, endangered species, and dangerous pesticides that kill millions of birds each year.”

“This legislation includes conservation and forestry provisions that are critically important to wildlife conservation throughout the range of mule deer and black-tailed deer in the West,” said Miles Moretti, Mule Deer Foundation president/CEO.

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