There’s no single piece of legislation that has a greater impact on America’s agricultural sector and our rural communities than the farm bill. Last week, House Agriculture Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson officially released his committee’s 2024 bill. While there are many impactful components, we’re here to focus on the conservation title, which will benefit both waterfowl and America’s agricultural producers.

Ducks Unlimited has a long history of working with ranchers, farmers, and other private landowners across the country to enhance and restore millions of acres critical to waterfowl and other wildlife habitats.

After all, most of the remaining wetlands in the United States are on private land, where most waterfowl are raised, migrate, and winter. Voluntary, incentive-based conservation practices are complementary to a successful, modern-day farming operation.

That’s why Ducks Unlimited supports balanced agricultural policies that can help American farmers and ranchers increase profitability while conserving habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. Building on existing farm bill conservation programs is crucial, and one practical step this bill takes is to reallocate funding from the Inflation Reduction Act into the conservation title, providing an expected 25% increase in total funding over 10 years and beyond. 

This long-term investment would support existing voluntary agricultural conservation programs that are authorized and funded through the farm bill. These programs are the backbone of Ducks Unlimited’s cooperative conservation work with our partners in agriculture. We’re delighted to see common ground between the House and Senate on this issue.

The Wetland Reserve Easement program under the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program restores previously converted wetlands to their natural state. ACEP also provides landowners and producers with a financially viable option for lands with low profits while reducing burdensome expenses for producers and taxpayers alike. The House bill increases annual funding for ACEP up to $700 million by 2029 and promotes opportunities to manage existing easements.  

The extremely popular Environmental Quality Incentives Program will continue to help producers maintain working agricultural lands, incentivize landowners to conserve small wetlands in crop fields, and improve farm infrastructure like fencing, water irrigation, and more.

Ducks Unlimited uses public and private contributions under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program to support producers in achieving geographically targeted goals in rice-producing states, the Prairie Pothole Region, and other landscapes. We’ve utilized this program to great success with the Rice Stewardship Partnership to positively impact nearly 855,000 acres since its inception. This farm bill improves RCPP by providing technical and administrative updates that will ultimately make the program more flexible and adaptable to producers’ needs. 

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Finally, the House farm bill institutes new provisions for the Conservation Reserve Program to emphasize state partnerships and help incentivize new producers and landowners to enroll less productive land into the program. These reforms will result in more locally led decision-making and provide greater hunting opportunities and access for America’s sportsmen and women on private lands. 

Farmers, ranchers, waterfowl, and the general public rely upon strong congressional support for the farm bill conservation title’s voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs, and this bill delivers. 

We appreciate Chairman Thompson and the committee for their work on this bill and look forward to further bipartisan collaboration between the House and Senate to pass a farm bill that benefits all Americans, wildlife, and the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers who feed a hungry world.

Ducks Unlimited CEO Adam Putnam is a hunter, angler, and lifelong advocate for conservation and agriculture. Prior to his role as CEO, Adam was the Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of Florida where he led the nation's largest state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and was responsible for the management of 1.3 million acres of state forests, running the state Energy Office, and promoting the state’s $9 billion agriculture industry. Prior to serving as Commissioner, Adam served five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Elected in 2000, Putnam was the youngest member of Congress at the time and the youngest ever from Florida.