TODAY, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Dale Hall, Chief Executive Officer of Ducks Unlimited, to highlight the value of public-private conservation efforts and the record conservation results achieved by producers, landowners and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 2009. Secretary Vilsack emphasized the critical need for Congress to pass a new Farm Bill to continue these efforts.
Across the nation, USDA works directly with farmers and ranchers to carry out conservation practices aimed at strengthening our nation's soil and water resources. USDA has partnered with more than 500,000 farmers, ranchers and landowners on these conservation projects since 2009 – a record number.
By protecting marginal cropland, preserving habitat and implementing environmentally-friendly production methods, these efforts preserve the ability of America's farmers and ranchers to continue producing an abundant food supply in the years to come. Conservation also strengthens outdoor recreation, which adds more than $640 billion every year to our economy.
The Farm Bill represents the nation's largest investment supporting the voluntary and successful conservation, restoration and management of America's working lands. A new Farm Bill would:
- Continue targeted conservation efforts through a streamlined Regional Conservation Partnership Program. This new program will continue efforts under existing programs like the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative, Healthy Forest Restoration Program, and Great Lakes Initiative to ensure soil quality, water quality, erosion control, forest restoration, and wildlife habitat.
- Maintain key working lands programs including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.
- Continue participation in the Conservation Reserve Program – under which USDA has held a general signup each year since 2009.
- Help ensure that natural resource conservation continues on tens of millions of acres, and further expand conservation, by linking crop insurance compliance to conservation program participation.
A Farm Bill would strengthen efforts USDA has undertaken across a range of innovative new landscape-scale initiatives aimed at restoring land and water. For example:
In addition to America's working lands, our forest lands are providing new opportunities in conservation that benefit rural communities. USDA has undertaken new measures designed to modernize forest restoration and achieve the maximum benefit for landowners and the environment.
- USDA has treated or harvested more than 500,000 acres for timber as part of 23 new "Collaborative Forest Restoration Projects." These efforts reduce fire risk and create jobs in rural America.
- USDA has sold more than 10.3 million board feet of timber since 2009 from National Forest lands – and to ensure modern Forest management, USDA released and implemented a new Planning Rule to balance forest care and restoration with commonsense job creation.
To help spur innovation in conservation, USDA has invested in new research, monitoring and coordination efforts that help researchers and producers enhance conservation benefits on the land.
Many of these conservation efforts, and USDA's ability to continue working with farmers, ranchers and landowners to protect our environment, depend on Congressional passage of a new Farm Bill. Americans are counting on Congress to get its job done and pass a Farm Bill as soon as possible.
The following charts provide a state-by-state look at the impact of some leading USDA conservation programs within the Farm Service Agency and Natural Resources Conservation Service.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).