December 12, 2002

New Farm Bill Will Benefit Missouri Wildlife

The recently passed Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, also known as the 2002 farm bill, includes $39 billion over the next 10 years for programs that conserve soil, water, wildlife and other natural resources.

New farm legislation typically is created every five years. The first farm bill, enacted in 1933, helped American agriculture change as societal needs, world markets and other factors affecting farm production changed. Since the 1980s, conservation concerns have been strengthened in the legislation.

For the past 17 years, federal farm bills have better recognized the correlation between good farm management and the well-being of our wildlife and natural resources. Nearly half of the land in the United States is used for agricultural production. That land intertwines with our streams and natural habitat and provides food and cover for wildlife. The farm bill is designed to sustain a healthy farm economy while also enhancing and protecting natural resources, including wildlife.

Highlights of the 2002 farm bill include expansion of established conservation programs and creation of new land-management programs.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is among the oldest efforts by the farm bill to address conservation concerns. CRP, established in 1985, pays landowners to take their land out of crop production and establish native grasses, and other cover that prevents erosion and benefits wildlife. This year's farm bill provides funds to enroll 39.2 million acres of land in the CRP program. A new eligibility requirement of the program is that the land must have been farmed four of the six years prior to enrollment.

The Conservation Security Program (CSP) is among the most innovative programs created in this year's farm bill. With CSP, landowners who manage their properties to address soil erosion, herbicide runoff, wildlife habitat and other important conservation issues can receive financial support for those conservation practices. Funding for this program will be determined by Congress annually.

Also new in this year's farm bill is the Grassland Reserve Program, which addresses conservation of prairies. It offers cash in return for easements or other long-term agreements from participants who maintain or restore native prairies. Enrolled lands can be hayed or grazed. The new farm bill provides funding to enroll two million acres in the program.

The Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) provides cash incentives for restoring wetlands. WRP has been very successful in Missouri, providing $75.6 million to restore 78,000 acres of wetlands. The 2002 farm bill calls for increasing national enrollment in WRP by 250,000 acres per year.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP, helps defray the cost of implementing certain wildlife habitat management practices on lands that are actively managed to produce crops or livestock forage. EQIP will receive $400 million in funding this year and will increase to $1.3 billion annually by 2006.

The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) provides financial assistance to landowners who manage land for wildlife. National funding for WHIP is $15 million in 2002. WHIP funding will increase to $85 million annually in 2005.

Also included in the 2002 farm bill is $100 million for the new Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP). FLEP provides funding specifically for forest needs, such as reforestation and management practices to improve the health of forest.

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