Farm Bill 2018
North America’s grasslands are our Amazon, home to pronghorn antelope, endangered songbirds, and hundreds of other wild species found nowhere else on Earth. Yet millions of acres of grasslands that make up the Great Plains are plowed up each year. In fact, in recent years, the Great Plains of the US and Canada lost intact grasslands faster than the Brazilian Amazon lost rain forest.
In 2018, Congress will take up two bills that are critical to the conservation of the grasslands of the Great Plains: the federal spending bill and the Farm Bill. These bills control funding for conservation programs that provide farmers and ranchers with the financial and technical assistance needed to produce food in ways that protect grassland habitats and the wildlife that live there.
WWF supports programs and policies designed to keep grasslands intact such as:
- The Conservation Reserve Program, which provides a financial incentive to keep environmentally sensitive land out of crop production and has a grassland specific section to protect grasslands from development or conversion. This land then provides wildlife habitat, enhances soil, and stores water.
- The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which permanently protects grassland from commercial development and conversion.
- In six states, if native grasslands are plowed under to instead produce crops, crop insurance premium support is significantly reduced. The Sodsaver policy should be strengthened to eliminate unintentional loopholes and expanded to every state.
- Nationwide, the Conservation Compliance policy encourages the conservation of wetlands and highly erodible land by connecting this work to eligibility for crop insurance premium support.
WWF also advocates for these programs which help farmers and ranchers improve conservation outcomes on working lands:
- The Conservation Stewardship Program is the largest conservation program with more than 70 million acres of farms and ranches enrolled in strengthening environmental practices.
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program rewards landowners for addressing conservation concerns on their farmland, such as improving water quality or creating habitat for at-risk wildlife species like songbirds.
- Natural Resources Conservation Service technical assistance support gives farmers and ranchers the skills and knowledge to use and manage natural resources efficiently and resiliently and to protect biodiversity and habitats.
- The Regional Conservation Partnership Program leverages public conservation funding and private funds through partnerships to have more of an impact in the field.
- The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program supports programs that provide training and conservation planning for new farmers and ranchers, connect new farmers and ranchers with experienced mentors, and much more.