September 5, 2023

The Top Items That Congress Should Include in the 2023 Farm Bill

Why It Matters: Generally reauthorized every five years, the United States Farm Bill represents one of the largest and most important pieces of legislation passed by Congress. Covering topics ranging from crop insurance to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Farm Bill’s provisions touch all Americans in one way or another. For sportsmen and women, our nation’s original conservationists, the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the greatest investments in fish, wildlife, and forest conservation in the world.


  • The U.S. Senate returns on Wednesday, September 6 and the U.S. House returns on Tuesday, September 12. During this time, Congress will largely be working to pass funding for the federal government. However, there is another important program that needs to be addressed that is of critical importance to sportsmen and women, farmers, ranchers, and the entire nation – the Farm Bill.
  • At the end of this month, the 2018 Farm Bill will expire, unless reauthorized prior to its expiration. As such, Congress is currently writing the draft legislation to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is working to secure robust investments for sportsmen and women as part of the Farm Bill.
  • It is highly unlikely that a complete, bicameral Farm Bill will be signed into law at the end of the month, but CSF anticipates that draft legislative text will begin receiving consideration in September.

On September 30, the five-year Farm Bill is set to expire. Fortunately, Congress is working to draft a new Farm Bill. CSF expects there to be a draft Farm Bill introduced in September that will pave the way for further discussion and compromise. In advance of this, CSF strongly encourages the House and Senate Agriculture Committees to include sound investments within the Conservation and Forestry Titles of the Farm Bill. These investments include:

Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP)

VPA-HIP, one of the most important programs to sportsmen and women, provides state fish and wildlife agencies financial resources to create voluntary public recreational access, including hunting and fishing, on private lands while also bolstering fish and wildlife conservation. VPA-HIP’s $50 million that was provided by 2018 Farm Bill has been fully allocated across the country, with demand continuing to grow for the program. Recognizing the importance of the program, CSF urges Congress to include $150 million for VPA-HIP over the five-year life of the Farm Bill.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

CRP is the oldest and most well-known Farm Bill conservation program. CRP provides private landowners with direct payments and other incentives in exchange for converting certain crop production acres to a specific conservation purpose for the duration of a CRP contract, typically 10-15 years. Recognizing the tremendous conservation benefits attributed to CRP, CSF encourages Congress to retain critical investments in the program and maintain wildlife conservation among the program’s objectives while incorporating statutory fixes to bolster enrollment. These fixes include: increased rental payments to encourage participation, improved program flexibility as it relates to grazing, increased overall payment caps, and the permanent inclusion of State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) in continuous CRP. Likewise, CSF joins partners in recognizing the “working lands” aspects of CRP which provides participating landowners with benefits beyond just annual rental payments.

Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)

ACEP allows landowners to voluntarily establish term-limited or perpetual easements on their property in exchange for financial incentives. Easements under ACEP may be used to ensure land is not converted from agricultural use (Agricultural Land Easements – ALE) or to conserve, restore, and bolster wetlands (Wetland Reserve Easements – WRE). In addition to increased resources for ACEP, CSF has advocated that members of Congress continue to recognize the fish and wildlife habitat and ecological benefits of wetlands created through WRE, both on and off-site.

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

EQIP provides landowners with cost-share and financial incentives to implement certain conservation practices on private working lands. This program is one of the most popular for private landowners and is often oversubscribed. As such, the key focus for EQIP is additional funding, including the potential retention and inclusion of funds made available to the program last year through the Inflation Reduction Act.

Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP)

CFLRP facilitates forest restoration work on National Forest System lands to reduce wildfire risk and improve forest and watershed health through collaboratively driven, landscape scale stewardship projects.  CSF encourages Congress to reauthorize CFLRP for an additional five years to leverage partner investment and increase the capacity of the U.S. Forest Service to carry out forest restoration work in priority forest landscapes.

Good Neighbor Authority (GNA)

GNA allows the United States Forest Service to enter into agreements with state, county, and tribal partners to implement cross-boundary forest health improvement projects on federal forests. CSF urges Congress to provide the same authority as states to tribes and counties for GNA projects. Unfortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill prohibited the ability of restoration services to take place off federal lands. CSF strongly encourages Congress to revisit this and provide the authority to conduct GNA projects on adjacent non-federal lands.

Fish in the Farm Bill

America’s farmlands are intrinsically linked with the nation’s waters and fisheries. Conservation programs in the Farm Bill have long worked with farmers, ranchers, and landowners to restore fisheries – working to stem hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay, prevent harmful algal blooms in the Midwest and conserve stream flow in western states. In addition to the previously mentioned programs that benefit water quality and aquatic habitat, CSF encourages the reauthorization of specific programs that benefit fish, such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), Source Water Protection Program (SWPP), and the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF), among others.

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