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With Recess Looming, ASLA Urges Congress to Pass a 21st Century Farm Bill

On October 1, 2013, our nation’s current farm bill expired, causing us to revert back to the 1949 farm law to govern the country’s agricultural activities. Currently, Congress is working to pass a new farm bill that will not only move us pass the outdated 1949 law, but will also establish the direction of our agriculture and conservation policy for the next several years.

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While both chambers of Congress have passed their respective farm bills, they are still far from reaching an agreement on a final bill to send to President Obama. However, House Speaker John Boehner (OH) has set a deadline to complete action on a final bill by the end of the legislative calendar – December 13 - giving House-Senate conferees just a handful of legislative days to work out differences and move the bill to the president’s desk. Major sticking points include differences on the commodity title, some conservation provisions, and funding levels for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Both the House and Senate bills would consolidate current farm bill conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program, one of the largest conservation programs, would be reauthorized with other smaller conservation programs, like the Grasslands Reserve Program, rolled into it. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which assists producers applying conservation measures on land in production, would also be reauthorized by both bills with a new 5 percent funding carve-out for wildlife habitat practices. The bill would also establish two new conservation programs – the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program – out of existing programs, including the Wetlands Reserve Program. With the expiration of the current farm bill, many conservation programs have halted new enrollments, which could leave many fragile lands and ecosystems vulnerable.

ASLA hopes Congress and the President will pass a 21st century farm bill that encourages sustainable agricultural practices that protect fragile lands, reduce soil compaction, protect our watersheds, and enhance our prairie ecosystems, while providing food and energy for the world.

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