With Congress returning to the Capitol after a month-long recess, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) joined other organizations in pressing House leaders to pass a five-year farm bill before the end of the legislative session in December.
Several popular conservation programs — including the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative — have not had authority to hold new enrollments since the last farm bill expired in September.
EDF partnered with a broad coalition of 235 organizations to send a letter this week calling on the House of Representatives to pass a five-year farm bill.
“This legislation is of paramount importance to the diverse, bipartisan constituencies our organizations represent,” the letter said. “Failure to pass a new five-year farm bill before the year’s end will create significant budget uncertainty for the entire agricultural sector.”
The letter was sent to House leadership on behalf of groups representing all areas affected by the farm bill, including the conservation, farming, livestock, rural development, nutrition, municipalities, manufacturing, agricultural research, crop insurance, and renewable energy communities. “We stand united in our strong support for a new five-year bill,” the letter stated.
In a second letter sent to House Speaker Boehner on November 12, EDF and 42 other environmental and conservation organizations urged Congress to complete a five-year farm bill with a strong Conservation Title this year.
“We believe a bill that takes on the best conservation provisions from the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed bills is quite possible to achieve even in the limited amount of time left in this session of Congress,” the letter said. “The Senate and the House Agriculture Committee clearly agree on the value of the Conservation Title since their versions of the bill are substantially the same and have received strong bi-partisan support.”
Both letters stressed the urgency and importance of passing a five-year farm bill in light of the record droughts that affected much of the country this year. Sara Hopper, director of agricultural policy for EDF, said, “This year’s devastating drought highlights the critical importance of good conservation practices to increase the resilience of the land in the face of extreme weather events and intensifying pressure on America’s land and water resources.”
If the popular conservation programs are not reauthorized soon, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who are willing to share the cost of providing cleaner water, outdoor recreation opportunities and other important benefits will continue to be turned away and critical conservation needs will remain unmet.
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