Monday, May 19, 2008

Farm Bill Information

From The Birding Community E-Bulletin:

House-Senate negotiators reached a tentative agreement on the long-awaited Farm Bill on Friday, 25 April. The provisional agreement on a new five-year Farm Bill was approached after another round of spending and tax cuts, and the establishment of new customs fees to meet budget rules and to win over Republicans’ support in the Senate.

Conservation measures in the Farm Bill are deemed crucial to bird-and-wildlife protection. Native prairie, certainly one of this country’s most endangered ecosystems, is suffering a heavy loss, since incentives remain in place encouraging conversion to cropland. (e.g., more than half a million acres of native prairie were lost nationwide in 2007.) A proposed provision called Sodsaver is part of the new Farm Bill. It is aimed at discouraging this destruction by removing crop insurance eligibility and other subsidies. Even the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), long considered the centerpiece of Farm Bill conservation, is suffering as rental rates for the program are being outstripped by commodity prices (e.g., rental rates in the Prairie Pothole Region on CRP land average $31 per acre, while commodity crops are bringing in more than $150 per acre).

Details are still pending, and although refinements on some policy issues are still being made, the optimistic expectation is that Congress can complete the bill by mid-May.

We hope to have a more thorough report in the June E-bulletin.

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