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 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:
- More than 844,000 acres were enrolled since 2010 under the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative to help treat land along the Mississippi River.
- More than 275,000 acres were enrolled since 2011 under the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative, helping helps farmers and ranchers in the central United States conserve water.
- More than 246,000 acres were enrolled since 2010 under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, working with producers to protect water quality and combat invasive species. America's Great Lakes hold 21 percent of the world's surface fresh water.
- The USDA Everglades Initiative has enrolled nearly 215,000 acres since 2010, improving water quality and helping to restore fish and wildlife habitat in this unique coastal region.