July 11, 2013
The House of Representatives, on a 216-208 vote, passed a Farm Bill (H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013) that does not include a nutrition title and that repeals permanent 1949 farm laws.
“The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies is disappointed the House of Representatives did not pass a comprehensive farm bill,” said Association President Jeff Vonk. “Additionally, replacing permanent law with provisions that would allow various agriculture programs to continue indefinitely, while allowing conservation programs to expire in 2018, is unacceptable,” continued Vonk.
The Association was among 532 groups that recently sent a letter encouraging House leadership to work towards a comprehensive, bipartisan bill. “Although we are concerned that the House approach to split the farm bill and repeal permanent law makes the farm bill reauthorization process more challenging,” said Vonk, “we look forward to working with lawmakers to complete a farm bill with sound conservation provisions by September.”
The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and the state fish and wildlife agencies we represent remain committed to completing a bipartisan, comprehensive, five year farm bill in 2013 that includes the conservation policy priorities critical to conserving our nation’s fish and wildlife. Specifically, these key provisions include re-establishing basic conservation measures to protect fragile soils and wetlands as an eligibility requirement for crop insurance premium subsidies, a national policy to reduce incentives to plow up our country’s remaining native grasslands, and not weakening existing farm bill wetlands conservation policies.
“We urge the House and Senate to begin the conference process quickly, and to incorporate our money-saving and common-sense conservation priorities into a reconciled farm bill,” said Vonk. “The Association is opposed to any final farm bill reported out of conference committee that does not contain the conservation priorities critical to our nation’s fish and wildlife resources: Conservation Compliance linked to crop insurance, a national Sodsaver policy, and no weakening of Swampbuster provisions.”
The House-passed farm bill included only an unworkable, regional version of the Sodsaver program, and did not include any provision to re-link conservation compliance to crop insurance premium subsidies. Further, an amendment retained from the floor debate in June weakened the existing Swampbuster program by prohibiting USDA from using mitigation standards based on the functions and values of a lost wetland, limiting mitigation to an acre for acre policy that would often result in a net loss of wetland values like flood prevention, water purification, and wildlife habitat.
The farm bill conservation title is the single, largest federal investment for natural resources conservation including fish and wildlife conservation on private lands in the nation. The farm bill is critical to state fish and wildlife agencies for conserving and improving millions of acres of habitat and for providing opportunities for hunting and angling. This investment, in turn, helps sustain rural economies; improve the quality of life through cleaner water, fresher air and healthier places to live; and provide affordable food and fiber in environmentally sustainable ways.
The Association urges state fish and wildlife agencies to reach out to their Congressional delegations, encouraging Members to complete work on a five year farm bill that includes critical conservation priorities for our nation before the current authorization expires on September 30.
To show your support for the farm bill and for farm bill conservation priorities, please include #2013FarmBill in your social media outreach.
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