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Policy Pulse: Conservation Programs Expire as Farm Bill Languishes

Outdoor America 2018 Issue 4
plowing up prairie_ND_credit Krista Lundgren USFWS

The federal Farm Bill — which includes many important conservation programs to help farmers and ranchers be better stewards of the land, water, wetlands, and wildlife on private lands — expired on September 30. As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cannot enroll new participants into conservation programs. This means that conservation-minded landowners who wish to implement best practices or conserve land or wetlands will be unable to do so until those programs are reauthorized by a new Farm Bill or an extension of the expired one.

The House of Representatives and Senate have each passed a new Farm Bill, but their respective bills had a variety of critical differences. At the time Outdoor America went to press, the House and Senate had not reached agreement on a final bill. Disagreements about commodity payments, nutrition assistance, and conservation programs remain the biggest obstacles to an agreement.

If a new Farm Bill is further delayed, Congress could pass an extension of the 2014 Farm Bill, which would allow new enrollments in conservation programs for a short time. Ultimately, America needs a new Farm Bill. But if Congress cannot act quickly to pass one, an extension is the prudent way to keep conservation programs working until a new bill can be passed.

As we have done over the past two years, the League will continue working to ensure a Farm Bill that protects water quality, wildlife habitat, and soil health is signed into law.