Farm Bill Amendment Designed to Protect Wild Habitat Withdrawn by the House

Farm Bill Amendment Designed to Protect Wild Habitat Withdrawn by the House

Emma Bryce
Published: 06/20/2013

As a consequence of the high subsidies that are already in place, and currently elevated crop prices for crops like soybeans and corn, some farmers practice more reckless land use, edging into wild and delicate habitat like wetlands because the high returns make it worth the gamble. If this system isn’t altered in the Farm Bill, conservationists fear that the damage might continue, if not grow worse. One study recently showed that between 2006 and 2011, this rewarding subsidy system for soybean and corn growers caused the loss of 1.3 million acres of grassland and wetland habitat, as some emboldened farmers made their advance.

That’s why the Thompson-Fortenberry Amendment—designed to link crop insurance with conservation compliance—is so important, say conservation groups.

Conservation used to be hitched to crop insurance subsidies for farmers, from 1985 to 1996, and Audubon’s members were recognized as leaders in the effort to achieve this. In 1996 however, the government decided that the attached conservation obligations were discouraging farmers from signing up for federal insurance, leaving them to depend on a system of irregular disaster payments that offered less security, E&E News reports.

Since then, however, the idea of linking the two has gained traction again, with some farming organizations supporting the move.

“Audubon’s number one goal in the committee,” Moore says, “will be for this provision, which is conservation compliance, to be part of the final package.” The Farm Bill’s final passage could occur in the next few weeks, depending on how quickly the Senate and the House reach agreements on the numerous provisions contained in the two bills. Ultimately, how they treat the question of conservation compliance amid the deluge of other provisions will have considerable, tangible impacts on our ecosystems and our health.

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