WASHINGTON – “This Farm Bill is a huge win for birds and it gives us real tools to work together on clean water and places birds need while increasing productivity for farmers and ranchers across the country,” said David O’Neill, Chief Conservation Officer for National Audubon Society. “We are still reading the fine print, but it looks like this bill gives birds a lot to celebrate. It elevates support for water conservation for the benefit of birds and people and keeps its promises to American families by preserving nutrition programs.”
O’Neill was commenting on the 2018 Farm Bill, which is on its way to the President’s desk and will shape what happens on 914 million acres of farms and ranches and 300 million acres of private woodlands and is the largest source of conservation funding for them. The bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act Of 2018 (H.R. 2), passed the U.S. Senate on December 11 (87-13) and the House on Dec. 12 (369-47).
“There is a lot of good news in this legislation,” said Julie Grogan-Brown, Audubon’s Policy Manager for Working Lands “We are grateful to partners and Members and Hill staffers who put this 1000-plus page document together. I look forward to continued teamwork as we begin to implement this historic Farm Bill.”
The 2018 Farm Bill expands funding for, and improves access to, several key programs that will benefit birds and other wildlife through Audubon partnerships across its Working Lands Programs, including:
- Doubles mandated wildlife funding from 5% to 10% of overall Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) spending; it also brings total EQIP spending to just over $2 billion by 2023. EQIP contracts help ranchers partnering on Audubon’s Conservation Ranching program to pay for the necessary environmental improvements on their ranches that benefit cattle and wildlife; Audubon has won Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to help develop its Conservation Ranching work.
- Triples dedicated funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to $300 million and streamlines administrative processes and partner barriers overall. This program, which supports locally innovated partnerships, has allowed Audubon to partner with dairy farmers and industry organizations to implement practices that protect the Tricolored Blackbird, which is listed as a threatened species by the state of California, and give it the time it needs to fledge its young.
- Mandates $50 million annually for the Watershed Act, which will allow for landscape-level conservation planning and implementation through new partnerships because wildlife doesn’t recognize property ownership or jurisdictional boundaries. Along with changes in EQIP, the bill makes improvements to address drought conditions and other climate-related impacts to farmers and birds.
- Increases the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 24 million acres to 27 million acres, which pays farmers to temporarily remove some acres from production and create wildlife habitat. The CRP has been responsible for many local and regional wildlife recovery programs, including the Henslow’s Sparrow in Illinois and other breadbasket states.
The National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow, throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.
Contact: Anne Singer, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-271-4679