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Top Conservation Priorities Included in Farm Bill (2/4/14)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2014

Top Conservation Priorities Included in Farm Bill

Izaak Walton League Hails Congress for Protecting Farmers and Natural Resources

Gaithersburg, MD – The Izaak Walton League of America commends the U.S. Congress on passage of the 2014 Farm Bill, which includes conservation compliance – the top priority for the League.

The final hurdle in a long-overdue Farm Bill was overcome today with passage of the Conference Committee Report in the U.S. Senate.  

“The 2014 Farm Bill supports farmers and provides critical safeguards for America’s natural resources,” said Bill Wenzel, IWLA Agriculture Program Director.

“Ensuring that conservation benefits were retained as part of the taxpayer-supported financial safety net for farmers – which is shifting from direct payments to crop insurance – is the League’s number one priority,” said Wenzel. “Crop insurance premium subsidies have become the largest category of taxpayer support to farmers. Taxpayers deserve healthy soil, waters, and fish and wildlife populations in return for supporting America’s farmers. ”  

This will be accomplished with a requirement that farmers who receive crop insurance premium subsidies – currently $9 billion in annual taxpayer support – adopt basic conservation practices. Known as “conservation compliance,” this compact between farmers and taxpayers requires that producers farming erosion-prone land develop conservation plans to reduce soil loss. It also prohibits new wetland drainage. Conservation compliance has saved nearly 300 million tons of soil annually and protected millions of acres of wetlands since Congress included this requirement in the 1985 Farm Bill.

 “We believe in supporting America’s farmers and conserving our natural resources. Conservation compliance achieves both objectives,” Wenzel said. 

Unfortunately, Wenzel noted, the Farm Bill disappointed farmers and sportsmen by establishing only a regional Sodsaver program. “Grassland loss is not just a regional issue,” he said. “Grasslands provide critical wildlife habitat. They filter and retain water, improving water quality and mitigating flood damage. A regional program can have only limited success in ending financial incentives to put grasslands under the plow. In the end, producers inside the established program region will be put at a disadvantage compared with producers outside the region who continue to plow up these resources.” 

“Despite limits on the Sodsaver program and the cuts to conservation program funding, passage of the 2014 Farm Bill represents a victory for all those who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the investments to natural resources begun in 1985 Farm Bill are preserved as we enter a new era in farm policy.” 

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Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America's outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.

Contact: 
Bill Wenzel, IWLA Agriculture Program Director
(608) 444-0292 or bwenzel@iwla.org 

 
 
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