Russ Schnitzer, Trout Unlimited, (307) 438-1365
Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited, (703) 284-9406
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Trout Unlimited applauds passage of Senate Agriculture Committee's Farm Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Trout Unlimited commends the Senate Agriculture Committee for voting to reauthorize the Farm Bill and help keep trout and salmon resource conservation efforts in place across the nation. The committee worked throughout the day on its new bill and completed work on it this afternoon.
"We commend the Senate Agriculture Committee for its good work," said Steve Moyer, TU's vice president for government Affairs. "The committee faced major fiscal challenges with the bill, as the Farm Bill is a huge target for deficit cutters from both parties."
The committee's bill cut the conservation programs by $6 billion over 10 years, a cut of more than 10 percent. The cut is in no way reflective of the need for conservation dollars to enable TU and other conservation organizations to work with agricultural partners to solve watershed problems across the nation, but the push for deficit reduction is so strong, the committee was forced to find cuts, and it did so in a bipartisan manner.
"Despite the challenges facing the committee, members demonstrated their belief in the tremendous potential for producers and conservationists to solve watershed problems through partnerships and programs authorized by provisions of the Farm Bill," said Russ Schnitzer, agriculture policy advisor for TU. "We've seen in practice that a huge amount of common ground exists between private landowners and conservation interests to invest time and funding that benefits farm and ranch operations while protecting and restoring fish and game habitat. Provisions of this bill will help TU be a more effective partner to agricultural producers, and help us get more work done together," said Schnitzer.
What's more, Schnitzer said, there's real support for Farm Bill authorization from anglers and hunters who understand that quality habitat on private lands offers excellent sporting opportunity, either through granted access or on nearby public lands and waters.
The Conservation Title of the Senate Agriculture Committee's new bill includes the following provisions:
- Establishes a new Regional Conservation Partnership program, which will harness the useful tools of several of the bill's working lands and easement programs to benefit watershed and landscape-scale projects across the nation. Such projects will save water, restore streamflows, improve water quality, and restore trout and salmon habitat. Large-scale projects, such as the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, the Driftless Area in the midwest, and the Colorado River basin in the west, are examples of areas that should benefit from this program.
- Reauthorizes the vital EQIP program, and helps the valuable Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) by folding into EQIP, providing WHIP with more stable funding and eliminating a key finding limitations that hindered use of WHIP funds in the 2008 Farm Bill. EQIP funding is especially useful for helping farmers and ranchers manage the impacts of grazing by providing funding for fences to protect streams, and helping improve irrigation efficiency to save water for fish.
- Reauthorizing the voluntary access and habitat incentive program that will continue to allow states and Tribes to receive grants to be used to encourage farmers and ranchers to make their lands available to hunting and angling.
- Reauthorizing of the stewardship contracting program which allows the Forest Service to save funds accrued from forest management activities and reinvest those funds in watershed restoration projects, such as culvert replacement projects to increase fish passage in streams and rivers.
- Authorizes a Sod Saver program to curtail use of Farm Bill dollars for breaking out new farm land in highly erodible parts of watersheds.
Over the past decade, aided by our stalwart volunteer members, TU has hired place-based staff throughout the country to work with ranchers and farmers in rural communities to develop projects that upgrade irrigation systems and restore habitat on ranch and farm lands. These partnerships yield results that keep native trout off the endangered species list, and improve recreational fishing opportunities. The demand for this work is great. Aging irrigation infrastructure has reached epidemic levels throughout the West, and the cost of retrofitting this infrastructure often exceeds the capacity of individual operators or even organized irrigation districts. In the Midwest and East, farmers are grappling with ways to keep sediment and nutrients out of streams in order to improve water quality and fisheries in downstream bays, lakes and rivers. In sum, the needs are great, and we urge the Senate to move quickly to adopt the Committee's bill.
Trout Unlimited is a non-profit organization with more than 147,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America's trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. Follow TU on the TU blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter via @TroutUnlimited.