By Senator Mike Crapo
"Conservation is the application of common sense to the common problems for the common good."
-- Gifford Pinchot
April 22 is Earth Day, the annual effort by organizations, communities and governments to promote efforts to reduce pollution and increase conservation of our natural resources and environment. As I've often said, no federal policy contributes more to improve our environment than the Farm Bill. The Farm Bill conservation title is a prime example of the federal government assisting with improving the environment the right way: It provides a carrot rather than a stick to landowners through the financial and technical assistance necessary to bring tangible environmental results.
Farm Bill conservation programs have contributed significantly to providing a cleaner environment, improved water and air quality and preserved and enhanced habitat for species:
· The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) has provided approximately 185,000 participants with incentive payments to address conservation issues. For example, in Idaho, EQIP has been utilized to protect salmon, steelhead and bull trout through a number of animal feeding operation projects, and used to increase forest health and reduce wildfire through projects with the Nez Perce Tribe and landowners in the Lewiston area.
· More than 500,000 acres nationwide have been permanently protected from conversion to nonagricultural uses through enrollment in the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP).
· Nearly two million acres have been enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), which has assisted farm families with providing an increase of 44,000 acres of wetlands each year between 1997 and 2003.
· Soil erosion is reduced by an estimated 450 million tons per year through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which has also provided for the enrollment of nearly two million acres of buffers to protect surface water. CRP has contributed significantly to wildlife populations and habitat, such as increased sage grouse nesting and pheasant counts, and provided approximately two million more ducks annually.
· More than 32,000 comprehensive nutrient management plans have been developed with producers. These plans assist animal feeding operations with meeting regulatory requirements.
These are just a few examples of Farm Bill conservation programs that improve our environment in dynamic and measureable ways. Congress is currently working to reauthorize the Farm Bill, which provides us with a tremendous opportunity to build on gains achieved through existing conservation programs. My priorities throughout this process include: ensuring that our conservation programs provide necessary incentives for the recovery of species and enhancement of habitat on private lands; simplifying program participation; supporting on-the-ground technical assistance to producers; helping programs motivate best practices; and better addressing conservation challenges such as water concerns in the West. As Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Revitalization, Conservation, Forestry and Credit, it's been an honor to play a primary role in crafting a new conservation title, one that will enhance current successful conservation programs to make them work even better for producers.
In the spirit of Earth Day 2008, I look forward to the enactment of final legislation that puts additional and improved conservation tools in the hands of landowners that will, in the end, benefit all of us. For more information on the Farm Bill, please visit my website: http://crapo.senate.gov
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