IWLA Farm Bill Agenda

America’s farms and ranches cover 915 million acres, 41% of our country’s land. America has 2.1 million farmers and ranchers, and together they produce most of the fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat we eat1.

They produce enough to export about 20% of America’s agriculture production. Our farms also produce fibers, like cotton and wool, and crops used for biofuels. About 38% of America’s corn production and 25% of our soybean production is used to make ethanol or biodiesel2.

America’s farms and ranches are also home to deer, turkey, ducks, pheasants, quail, grouse, and pronghorn and to a multitude of other birds, butterflies, and bees. Our agricultural system contributes to some of our nation’s most difficult environmental challenges:

farmer
Download the PDF: IWLA Farm Bill Agenda
  • Runoff of pesticides, nitrogen, phosphorus, and animal waste from farm fields and livestock operations is polluting rivers and creeks and creating ‘dead zones’ from the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bay.
  • Decades of progress in reducing soil erosion appears to have stalled. America’s topsoil continues to erode into our rivers at alarming rates, and the health of our soil is in trouble.
  • The Great Plains lost 53 million acres of grassland to wheat, corn, and soybeans since 2009, and our continuing loss of native prairie is driving many grassland birds toward extinction3.

Decisions That Matter

The Farm Bill includes important provisions that are key to day-to-day decisions on most farms, decisions like what crops to plant, how to raise livestock, whether and how to apply chemicals, and what conservation measures to adopt. Decisions by farmers can help solve our conservation problems – or make water pollution, soil erosion, and loss of native prairie much worse. 

The first Farm Bill was developed in 1933, a response to the Great Depression and its impact on America’s farmers and rural communities. The Izaak Walton League of America first took an active role in agricultural policy in 1937, when the League adopted a resolution calling for a national program to retire fields in mountainous areas from agricultural use4.

Congress revisits the Farm Bill about every five years, and most programs in the current Farm Bill expire in 2018. Among those provisions are Farm Bill conservation programs, which provide nearly $5 billion per year to help farmers and ranchers be better stewards of our natural resources. These programs are America’s largest source of funding for private land conservation.  

America’s Investment

The 2014 Farm Bill was expected to cost an estimated $489 billion over five years – nearly $100 billion a year – and taxpayers deserve to get a good return on their investment in America’s food and agriculture system. The Izaak Walton League is working to get the most value out of Farm Bill conservation programs, and to ensure that the billions spent on crop insurance premium subsidies, commodity payments, farm loans and other provisions are tied to basic stewardship of our natural resources. 

The Izaak Walton League of America’s agenda for the 2018 Farm Bill is built on boosting our ability to restore clean water, regenerate our soils, and provide wildlife habitat while providing increased value for taxpayers.

We believe Congress should enact a 2018 Farm Bill that will:

  • Increase America’s investment in conserving private lands, and avoid robbing one conservation program to pay for increases in another;
  • Boost the impact of Farm Bill conservation programs by focusing on the most critical problems and leveraging state and private money to provide solutions big enough to solve the problems; and
  • Maintain and build on requirements that farmers who accept Farm Bill crop insurance premium subsidies, commodity program payments or loan subsidies will protect wetlands and have in place soil conservation plans.

NEXT: Restoring Clean Water >>