CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS REACH FARM BILL AGREEMENT
Bill would provide $4 billion for conservation
WASHINGTON, D.C. --After nearly four months of extensions, House and Senate Farm Bill conferees have reached an agreement on the main elements of the 2008 Farm Bill. If passed, the bill would provide an additional $4 billion in new funding for conservation programs.
While final language is not yet confirmed, major conservation provisions likely in the bill include the following:
- reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), one of the most successful conservation programs in U.S. history, creating habitat for pheasants, quail, and other wildlife;
- new provisions to adjust CRP rental rates to increase competition with other practices;
- provisions that would provide incentives for thinning and burning CRP tree plantings, improving quail habitat;
- encouragement of state-specific wildlife projects, such as State Acres For wildlife Enhancement (SAFE);
- provision of $1.3 billion to re-establish Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) acres, as well as a new appraisal process to make the program more competitive;
- expansion of the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP, formerly the Conservation Security Program), with $1.1 billion to enroll 80 million acres in the program nationwide; and
- $50 million for new provisions to help states develop and enhance access programs for hunters, such as the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks' Walk In Hunting Access (WIHA) program.
The bill is also expected to include provisions for the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), as well as address the conversion of native prairies to agricultural use.
For a statement by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer on Congress' announcement of a new Farm Bill, go to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's website, www.usda.gov.