The Senate is due to take up the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), better known as the Farm Bill, already passed by the House of Representatives in June 2018.
The current Farm Bill, set to expire in September, includes many important conservation programs for that benefit fish and wildlife as well as conservation efforts.
Here’s a brief rundown of some of the important programs featured in the Farm Bill via the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation:
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – Allows farmers to take environmentally sensitive land out of production in exchange for rental payments. In addition to capping rental payments for CRP lands to 80% of the land’s rental rate, H.R. 2 will increase the CRP acreage cap from the current cap of 24 million acres to 29 million acres over the life of the Farm Bill.
Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) — A voluntary, incentive-based program that provides financial and technical assistance to protect, restore, and enhance agriculture lands and wetlands through the purchase of easements. H.R. 2 will provide $500 million in annual funding for ACEP.
Voluntary Public Access and Hunter Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) — A competitive grant program that provides state and tribal governments with funds to increase public access to private lands for hunting and fishing. H.R. 2 will authorize $50 million over the life of the bill until 2023 for VPA-HIP.
Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) — Encourages conservation partner organizations to leverage their own funds, along with RCPP grant funds, to collaborate with producers and landowners to increase the restoration and sustainable use of soil, water, wildlife, and related natural resources on regional or watershed scales. H.R. 2 will authorize $250 million for each fiscal year through 2023 for RCPP.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) — Provides agricultural producers with financial and technical assistance to implement conservation practices on lands in active production in order to provide cleaner water, improve air quality, healthy soil, and wildlife habitat. H.R. 2 will increase funding for EQIP to $3 billion per year over the life of the Farm Bill, while eliminating the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). Under H.R. 2, some aspects of the CSP will be rolled into EQIP.
Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (new provision) – H.R. 2 provides $100 million towards a pilot program addressing feral swine, which cause well over $1 billion of crop damages annually across the country and have immensely negative impacts on water, wildlife, and wildlife habitat.