Conservation groups praise Senate farm bill

Conservation groups are praising the Farm Bill the U.S. Senate passed Monday for its strong conservation title.

The Senate passed the version 66-27.

The groups were especially pleased with the bill’s inclusion of a national Sodsaver program to reduce grassland loss and a provision that “re-couples” conservation compliance with crop insurance.

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited, called the two measures “tremendous steps forward in slowing the devastating trend of wetland and grassland habitat loss.

“Our nation is currently experiencing a rate of wetland and native prairie loss not seen since the Dust Bowl,” Hall said in a statement. “These proactive programs will benefit humans and wildlife by ensuring clean drinking water, lessening the impact of floods, slowing the rate of habitat destruction and keeping working farms and ranches productive.”

“The national Sodsaver provision in the Senate bill will conserve native prairies, one of the most imperiled ecosystems in North America,” said Bridget Collins, agriculture policy coordinator with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “The combined pressure of high commodity prices and land values has resulted in these grasslands being converted at an unacceptably high rate. In addition to the conservation values, the national Sodsaver provision provides important protections for both ranchers and taxpayers.”

With the Senate bill out the door, all eyes now turn to the House, which faces a rapidly closing window of time to advance its own Farm Bill. Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever, said the 2008 Farm Bill expires Sept. 30 and extending it would “irreversibly change the face of private lands conservation, threatening the existence of conservation programs that landowners have relied on for decades.

“Sportsmen and landowners are joining to urge the House to commit to advancing a forward-thinking Farm Bill as soon as possible,” Nomsen said in a statement.

To read more about the Farm Bill’s conservation components, click here.

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