Conservation and the New Farm Bill
farmers, WRP has improved water quality in rivers, streams and lakes and created critical wetland habitat for fish and wildlife. As a bonus, communities and farms along big rivers, like the Mississippi, Missouri and Grand rivers, benefit tremendously from the extra floodwater storage provided by these lands.
In 1996, Congress added two new conservation programs. One was the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) which provides cost-share to producers who are interested in managing some of their land with wildlife as the priority. Specifically, WHIP emphasizes wildlife that haven't been faring so well, such as the prairie-chicken and bobwhite quail, and vanishing natural communities, such as prairies, savannas and glades. To date, WHIP has provided $2.1 million in Missouri to develop critical habitat on 416 individual properties.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) also debuted in 1996. It provides financial assistance to help producers incorporate conservation on lands where agricultural production is the priority. EQIP has provided $15.6 million to achieve conservation on production lands.
Last spring, Congress completed the most recent farm bill, titled the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, and President Bush signed it into law on May 13. Of the $135.3 billion for agricultural programs, the new farm bill directs $39 billion to be dedicated to conservation. In fact, conservation funding in the 2002 Farm Bill is the largest increase for conservation in any farm bill ever.
Following are highlights of conservation programs either continued or created by the 2002 Farm:
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
The 2002 Farm Bill increased the enrollment authority of CRP to 39.2 million acres, up from 36.4 acres in the previous bill
A new eligibility requirement is that the land must have been farmed four out of the six years before the enactment of the 2002 Farm Bill. This focuses the program on existing, not new, cropland.
Selecting wildlife-beneficial cover, particularly native grasses and forbs, and application of prescribed burning and/or light discing every 3-4 years helps bobwhite quail, prairie chickens and other upland species that have been on long-term decline.
CRP Continuous Sign-up allows on-going enrollment of riparian areas, filter strips and other practices that provide buffers to improve water quality which, in turn, improves conditions for aquatic species that need attention. Whole-field enrollment is possible. Landowner offers that best address soil, water, air and wildlife are the most competitive.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
A continuous and competitive sign-up