Conservation and the New Farm Bill
allows for lands to be offered anytime. Permanent and 30-year easements are the enrollment choices that draw the widest interest.
Lands classified as prior converted cropland (former wetlands) or farmed wetlands are eligible. The program also allows enrollment of some adjacent lands, including riparian areas meeting certain criteria, to buffer restored wetlands or adjacent stream systems. The national enrollment authority for WRP is 250,000 acres per year.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
This program is designed to help achieve conservation on lands that are actively managed to produce livestock forage or crops. Private, non-industrial forestland is now also a purpose of EQIP. The sign-up is competitive and on-going.
EQIP is one of the best-funded programs in the new farm bill. It provided $400 million nationally in 2002, and will increase to $1.3 billion per year in 2007. Soil, water, air, fish and wildlife, forests and other resources are the treatment objectives of this program.
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
Unlike EQIP, WHIP is directed towards lands that are managed with wildlife as the priority. The sign-up for WHIP is competitive and on-going, and the program can be used to provide habitat for prairie-chicken, Topeka shiner, Niangua darter, bobwhite quail or any other species that has been on long-term decline and is in need of attention. The national funding level for WHIP is $15 million in 2002 and ramps up to $85 million per year in 2007.
Grassland Reserve Program (GRP)
Conservation of prairies is the focus of GRP, which is one of the new programs created by Congress in the 2002 Farm Bill. GRP offers compensation in return for an easement or other long-term agreement from participants to maintain native prairie and/or undertake prairie restorations.
Enrolled lands can be hayed or grazed under a conservation plan that conserves the prairie, but the land cannot be converted to cropland, building sites or other uses. An additional value of GRP is that it conserves prairies in concert with livestock production. The enrollment authority for GRP is 2 million acres nationally over the life of the farm bill. GRP is in Development by the USDA and is not yet available to Missourians.
Forest Land Enhancement Program (FLEP)
While EQIP addresses forestry needs in concert with agricultural production, Congress created FLEP to provide focused funding for forestry needs. FLEP can be used for a variety of forestry purposes, including reforestation and improving the health and vigor of forests. FLEP is funded at $100 million total through 2007. FLEP should be available in the near future.
Conservation Security Program (CSP)
The new CSP is under development by the USDA and will be significantly different from any other program ever created by a farm bill in that it provides income-support to agricultural producers for conservation from the land.
With CSP, landowners who manage their property to address soil erosion, herbicide/pesticide or nutrient runoff, air quality, wildlife habitat and other important conservation issues can receive annual payments for their conservation efforts. The greater the conservation value, the higher the payment (up to the payment cap allowed by the program). The funding authority for CSP will be decided annually at the national level.
All the conservation programs provided for in the 2002 Farm Bill are voluntary. Each producer has free choice to participate or not participate, depending on their conservation needs and individual situation.
Thanks to the new farm bill, the agriculture community can continue to provide society with ample food and fiber while conserving soil, water and air quality and our fish, forest and wildlife resources.