On February 14, the leaders of the Indiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus submitted a letter to the state’s congressional delegation, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Governor Eric Holcomb, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources supporting a strong conservation title in the 2018 reauthorization of the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill, a bundle of legislation that sets national agriculture, nutrition, forestry, and conservation policy last authorized in 2014, includes vital programs that support soil, water, and fish and wildlife conservation on America’s farms, ranches, and forests. Programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), the Sodsaver program, the voluntary public access and habitat incentive program (VPA-HIP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) have been proven successful in helping manage our natural resources. Providing over $5 billion in conservation funding per year, the Farm Bill is a vital tool in conserving and enhancing our national hunting and angling heritage.
The Indiana caucus’s letter detailed the many benefits that the Farm Bill brings to the state. CRP provides close to $40 million to more than 20,000 farms in Indiana each year, while ACEP contracts contribute nearly $9 million to conservation practices annually. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program invested about $332 million in Indiana in 2016 to assist landowners with wildlife habitat development, erosion control, pollinator conservation, reforestation, and to combat invasive species. In 2017, the Southern Indiana Young Forest Initiative, a project of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, brought together several partner organizations in Indiana to leverage public and private dollars working across 43 counties to address a lack of early successional forest habitat and corresponding declines in at-risk wildlife species.
The U.S. House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry have both been hosting hearings on the Farm Bill over the last several months. Comprehensive legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill is expected from these committees in the near future.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?