Dear Chairman Conaway, Chairman Roberts, Ranking Member Peterson and Ranking Member Stabenow:
The National Wildlife Federation, on behalf of our over six million members and supporters, along with the undersigned 37 state affiliates, thank you for your tireless work to move forward a new Farm Bill this year. As you and other members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee work to find compromise on a final 2018 Farm Bill, we urge you to craft a final Farm Bill with full conservation funding and strong provisions for soil, water, grasslands, wetlands, and wildlife.
We wanted to share with you our recommendations for a wildlife-friendly final Farm Bill, including a detailed set of programmatic recommendations (attached). In addition, our top-level, high priority recommendations include:
• Conservation Funding: With conservation programs hugely oversubscribed and the need for conservation greater than ever, it is critical that funding for the conservation title not be cut. We urge you to maintain or increase baseline conservation funding for this and future farm bills.
• Wildlife Funding: When the 2014 Farm Bill combined the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program into the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the net result was a decrease in funding going towards practices that create wildlife habitat. We urge you to increase the minimum amount of funds within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program required to be used for wildlife habitat conservation practices annually from 5 percent to 10 percent.
• Sodsaver: America’s grasslands are disappearing at a rapid rate, and with them, the wildlife that depend on grasslands. The 2014 Farm Bill took an important step forward with the creation of a 6-state Sodsaver provision to help reduce grassland loss by decreasing premium subsidies for native grassland that is converted to cropland. We urge you to strengthen this provision by closing an existing loophole and expanding the provision beyond the six states – either by adding other states, or at a minimum, giving governors the authority to opt in.
• Conservation Reserve Program: The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is one of the most important conservation programs for soil, water, and wildlife, yet acreage in the program was cut by 15 million acres over the last two Farm Bills. While it is important this Farm Bill increase acreage in the program if possible, the increase must not come at the expense of the quality of the program.
• Crop Insurance: We urge you to clarify that cover crops are considered good farming practices in order to ensure that farmers are not deterred from adopting cover crops and other conservation practices. In addition, we urge you to include provisions from the Agricultural Data Act providing for better data collection on conservation practices, and to provide USDA the authority to offer premium discounts for conservation programs
• Conservation Compliance: We are pleased that both bills maintain the linkage between conservation compliance and crop insurance subsidies. Please ensure that the final bill is free from provisions to weaken or undermine wetland or soil conservation compliance provisions.
• Riders: We urge you to keep the Farm Bill clean and free from attacks on the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and other bedrock environmental laws.
We thank you for your work to craft a 2018 Farm Bill that will protect our nation’s soil, water and wildlife.
National Wildlife Federation