Representatives Introduce Bill to Improve Farm Bill Conservation Programs
May 9th, 2013
Today, Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), along with eleven additional cosponsors, introduced a bill to improve current farm conservation programs. The Balancing Food, Farm, and the Environment Act (H.R. 1890) aims to help farmers and ranchers improve their environmental performance and reward them for the conservation benefits they produce.
The other cosponsors of the bill are Representatives Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim Moran (D-VA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), John Dingell (D-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), George Miller (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lois Capps (D-CA), and Rush Holt (D-NJ).
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) is expected to introduce companion legislation in the Senate later today.
Like the farm bills passed by the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate last year, the Balancing Food, Farm, and the Environment Act streamlines twenty‐three conservation programs into eleven and prioritizes long‐term outcomes to use taxpayer dollars most effectively. Additionally, the bill helps farmers address climate change, soil erosion, and water quality, while also providing them with resources to reduce antibiotic and pesticide use.
More specifically, the bill:
- Re-links federal crop insurance premium subsidies to wetland and highly erodible land conservation measures.
- Temporarily limits federal crop insurance premium subsidies on native prairie that is planted to crops.
- Combines the Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program into a consolidated easement program.
- Establishes a Regional Conservation Partnership Program to tackle local conservation needs and allow USDA to leverage the technical expertise of partners.
- Dedicates 10 percent of Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding for wildlife habitat conservation and improvement.
- Sets aside 600,000 acres each year for enrollment in the continuous Conservation Reserve Program and the continuous Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to protect land adjacent to streams and wetlands to improve water quality and wildlife habitat.
- Refocuses the conservation easement programs on long-term and permanent easements to reduce long-term costs and provide more durable protection of critical natural resources.
- Streamlines the ranking and contracting process within the Conservation Stewardship Program, and strengthens stewardship requirements.
- Allows producers to seamlessly enroll expiring Conservation Reserve Program acres in the Conservation Stewardship Program.
- Provides support for ranchers using intensive rotational grazing techniques and for producers using or making a transition to organic production systems.
- Limits conservation payments that go to Concentration Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and modifies the Conservation Loan Program to help farmers finance larger, structural conservation projects.
- Provides new options to help livestock producers reduce their use of nontherapeutic antibiotics and improve the health of their animals.
The introduction of the Balancing Food, Farm, and the Environment Act is an important step toward making much needed improvements to farm bill conservation policy. We will work to include these provisions in the 2013 Farm Bill as the process unfolds.