TCalls on Congress to pass the Bill during the Lame Duck Session
(Dec. 11, 2018) WASHINGTON D.C. —Trout Unlimited applauded the strong conservation elements of the new Farm Bill unveiled by the House and Senate Conference Committee leaders today.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, House Agriculture Committee Chair Mike Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson, led the way in developing a strong, bipartisan Farm Bill which was approved by the Conference Committee today.
The Farm Bill’s authorization expired on Sept. 30, and conferees had been working hard since then to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The new bill is needed to guide farmers’ planting decisions in the spring, ranchers’ grazing plans, as well as to energize on-the-ground conservation projects conducted by farmers, ranchers, and conservationists nationwide.
“Following months of hard work, we are delighted to see the conferees finish their work,” said Steve Moyer, vice president for Government Affairs. “We urge swift passage in the House and Senate in the final days of the lame duck session, so that President Trump can sign the bill before the holidays,” said Moyer.
“For over 50 years, Trout Unlimited has been working with agricultural producers on the twin goals of improving agricultural operations while restoring streams, water quality, and improving fisheries on ranches and farms,” said Laura Ziemer, senior counsel and water policy advisor. “The new Farm Bills of the past decade have enabled TU to vastly increase the size and scope of our projects, yielding substantial gains for trout and salmon habitat and watershed health across the Nation.”
“Just in the last four years alone, TU has matched more than $16.5 million in Farm Bill dollars with state and private dollars to carry out projects to make western ranch lands more drought resilient, reduce sediment in streams on midwestern farms, and improve riparian and stream habitat on rural, eastern farms,” said Ziemer. “To get even more of these projects accomplished, and to tackle massive, pressing problems such as drought in the Colorado River basin, we need the tools of the new Farm Bill right now. This Farm Bill has more tools for addressing western drought than any previous Farm Bill.”
The new bill provides the following benefits:
- Improves the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which will allow partners and producers to expand the reach and effectiveness of landscape scale conservation projects, by cutting red tape and increasing flexibility to attract new partners and encourage innovation in restoration and conservation of trout habitat.
- Makes the workhorse Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) more effective at remedying western drought by enabling western irrigation districts and canal companies to be eligible for EQIP investments in irrigation infrastructure to conserve water, improve reliability of delivery of irrigation water, and improve watershed health.
- Provides mandatory funding for the Small Watersheds program, PL-566, at $50 million/year for ten years, and makes it another flexible tool in the Farm Bill toolbox for watershed improvement and western drought remediation.
“Trout Unlimited has partnered with producers from New Hampshire and West Virginia in the east, Iowa and Wisconsin in the Midwest, Idaho, Colorado and Utah in the Rockies, and to the Klamath and Yakima Basins in Oregon and Washington, to improve agricultural operations and stream health, putting millions of Farm Bill dollars to the ground efficiently and with broad benefits,” said Laura Ziemer, senior water policy adviser for Trout Unlimited. “Provisions in the bill will encourage more partnerships with agricultural producers that benefit ranch and farm operations, promote healthy watersheds, and make water supplies more secure for irrigation and streams nationwide.”
Other provisions of the conference committee-approved bill are targeted at increasing the pace and scale of restoration on our national forests and protecting America’s public lands. Under the 2014 Farm Bill’s insect and disease treatment program, more than 70 million acres of national forests already have been made eligible for expedited environmental reviews and categorical exclusions. Also, Congress recently approved extensive and widely-supported fire funding and forest management reforms in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
“Our forestry tool box is pretty well stocked, but with an eye toward providing flexibility and new funding to address forest management, the conference committee-approved bill helps by adding some new, purpose-driven, narrowly-targeted options for land managers,” said Corey Fisher, public land policy director for Trout Unlimited. “We need more stakeholder involvement and partnership building to gain broad support for critical forest management decisions, and the conference bill does a good job of enhancing collaborative management of our public lands.”
The forestry title builds on America’s public land heritage in several ways:
- Reauthorization and increased funding for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.
- Bi-partisan measures that will help to restore sage grouse and mule deer habitat.
- Provisions that will foster collaborative projects to protect and restore priority watersheds on national forests.
- Ensuring that streamlined environmental reviews to combat insect and disease include sideboards that are science-based and provide for meaningful public involvement.
- Additions to the National Wilderness Preservation System in Tennesee.
“Now it is time to get the bill passed and signed into law,” said Moyer. “We thank and commend the savvy leadership of the conferees, and we now urge leadership of both chambers to shepherd the bill through Congress and on to the President’s desk.”
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Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.