Prior to completing work on the Senate Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill last month, committee staff provided a preview of certain draft titles. NMPF had the opportunity to see an outline of the key aspects of Title II, the conservation title. For the most part, the elements were similar to those included in the failed Super Committee package, which has earned praise from nearly all stakeholders representing agricultural and conservation organizations. Altogether, the legislation would remove $6 billion from the conservation title, while consolidating and simplifying a number of the programs. These provisions are featured in the bill that was ultimately approved by the committee last Thursday.
For dairy farmers, the major priority in the conservation title is to continue a strong Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), while maintaining the carve-out for livestock at 60 percent. NMPF was also pleased to see additional attention to haying and grazing.
The conservation title would set up four new provisions of the title: Working Lands, Easements, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and Partnerships. Here is a brief synopsis of each provision:
Three existing programs would be consolidated into this section, which would include EQIP, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). WHIP would be folded into EQIP since both programs can be duplicative in their efforts on the farm. WHIP would receive a carve-out of 5 percent of the funding. Again, EQIP would maintain the 60 percent funding carve out for livestock – a major victory for dairy farmers. The CSP program would be simplified and administered on more of a science-based process.
This section would consolidate the Farmland Protection Program (FRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) into one program, with two program options dealing with agriculture lands and wetlands. An important element of this section is extra attention to haying and grazing, including making permanent a grazing pilot program from the 2008 farm bill. Also, the 2008 farm bill prohibited enrollment of land if ownership had changed during the previous seven years. This has now been changed to two years.