Farm bills provide opportunities for large-scale conservation actions that would make U.S. President and NRA Life member Teddy Roosevelt proud. The 2018 Farm Bill just passed by both houses of Congress (by 369-47 in the House and 87-13 in the Senate) and, as this was being written, was awaiting a signature from President Donald J. Trump. Thanks to efforts from NRA-ILA and a long list of hunter-conservationist groups, an active Trump administration and many members of both houses of Congress, this farm bill offers a spreadsheet of smart conservation initiatives.
This five-year farm bill includes funding and programs that will benefit wildlife conservation:
The Conservation Reserve Program will provide contracts for 27 million acres of private land by 2023, allocating around $2 billion annually for farmers to remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production to help wildlife.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program will allocate $9.2 billion over five years to allow agricultural producers to plan and implement conservation practices to improve wildlife habitat.
Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which will provide $300 million annually ($1.5 billion total), the Natural Resources Conservation Service will help restoration and sustainable use of natural resources.
The Conservation Stewardship Program will allocate $3.9 billion over five years to help farmers maintain and improve existing conservation systems—and payments may be increased based on conservation project performance.
It is easy to miss how critical these programs are for conservation nationwide. For example, thanks to Farm Bill funding, over the past 25 years the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) “has worked with landowners to protect more than 4.4 million acres of wetlands and agricultural lands, a value of over a billion dollars in a diversified real estate portfolio that has resulted in improved soil health, water and air quality and wildlife habitat. Read more about the easement successes around the nation,” the NRCS says.
Finally, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is also funded by the Farm Bill, is a land conservation program in which farmers and ranchers are given yearly payments to keep them from farming or grazing environmentally sensitive lands. The goals of this program include re-establishing valuable cover to help improve water quality, preventing soil erosion and benefiting wildlife populations. Anyone who has hunted upland birds, waterfowl or even deer on private lands (or nearby public lands) has benefited from the maintenance and protection of this habitat.