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Farm Bill debate is back on; hunters, anglers hope for more support

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Farm Bill debate is back on; hunters, anglers hope for more support

The last five-year Farm Bill was approved in 2018, but a renewal effort stalled last year.

May 22, 2024 4:10 PM CDT

By: Mike Moen, Wisconsin News Connection / Public News Service

This week, Congress is picking up work on a new Farm Bill and hunters and anglers say billions of dollars in investments in private-lands conservation are at stake.

The Farm Bill expired last fall but was given a one-year extension. It is a large-scale, multiyear law governing and funding agriculture and food programs, including habitat conservation.

Conservation groups are watching Congress closely this week as work begins on the 2024 Farm Bill, which contains billions of dollars for private lands conservation programs.

Eran Sandquist, Midwest director of conservation delivery for Pheasants Forever, said the last part is vital to the members his organization serves, including the upper Midwest.

“We have a lot of needs in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, particularly in the prairie areas,” Sandquist pointed out. “Private land habitat provided by the Farm Bill, like CRP, is critically important.”

CRP is the Conservation Reserve Program, a key provision benefiting sportsmen and women. Advocates say without it, 40 million people would lose access to hunting and fishing opportunities.

The last five-year Farm Bill was approved in 2018 but a renewal effort stalled last year. The House Agriculture Committee is scheduled to begin marking up the bill tomorrow. The Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate have competing ideas in mapping out the newest version of the policy.

Aaron Field, director of private lands conservation for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said despite some of the broader differences among federal lawmakers, there is optimism about providing the necessary support to bolster the landscape for sportsmen and women.

“We have an opportunity in this Farm Bill to, for the first time in a very long time, increase the baseline funding for conservation,” Field emphasized. “This is something that’s got bipartisan support.”

Despite a bipartisan tone for certain elements of the Farm Bill, he acknowledged if talks drag out closer to the election, it will be harder to see compromises take shape. The temporary extension expires Sept. 30.

Disclosure: The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership contributes to Public News Service’s fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species and Wildlife, Environment, and Public Lands/Wilderness. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

This article originally appeared on Wisconsin News Connection, a division of Public News Service.

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