Izaak Walton League Commends Congress for Protecting Farmers and Natural Resources
Gaithersburg, MD – The Izaak Walton League of America commends the Farm Bill Conference Committee for including critical conservation measures in the Farm Bill, including a “conservation compliance” provision. The legislation will both support farmers and safeguard America’s natural resources. We urge all members of Congress to approve this Farm Bill.
“Ensuring conservation benefits are 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,” says Bill Wenzel, IWLA Agriculture Program Director. With the elimination of direct payments, crop insurance premium subsidies are poised to 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. This program will do both,” Wenzel says.
Unfortunately, the Conference Committee disappointed farmers and sportsmen by establishing only a regional Sodsaver program. Grassland loss is not just a regional issue. 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, we call on all members of Congress to vote for final passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. It has been 15 months since the clock ran out on the 2008 Farm Bill. It’s high time that Congress pass a new one.
Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America's outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.