On June 21, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, better known as the Farm Bill. This legislation was introduced by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Member and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Representative Michael Conaway (TX) on April 12.
The current Farm Bill was authorized in 2014 and is set to expire in September. H.R. 2 includes many important conservation programs for our nation’s fish and wildlife populations that also benefit America’s soil and water conservation efforts on private lands, farms, ranches, and forests.
The Conservation Title of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 contains a number of pro-sportsmen’s provisions, including:
- 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.
More information on these and other programs and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) priorities for the Farm Bill reauthorization, can be found here.
In the Senate, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (S. 3042) was recently passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 13. On June 21, CSF and conservation partners sent a letter to Chairman Senator Pat Roberts (KS) and Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI) thanking them for their bipartisan work in ensuring a strong conservation title in the Senate Farm Bill.
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- Improve hunter and target shooter involvement in regulatory and legislative processes. (11.67%)
- Enact or expand temporary hunter education deferral programs (apprentice license programs, multiyear options, programs for all first-time hunters regardless of age, and programs promoting hunting of multiple game species). (11.67%)
- Offer shooting sports and hunter education as school activities and recreation programs. (65.00%)
- Link existing programming into family-oriented organizations (such as churches and home-school groups) where participants will have the social support to continue. (11.67%)