2023 Farm Bill: Good for Wildlife, Good for People

  • Lew Carpenter, Director of Conservation Partnerships.
  • May 10, 2023

The Farm Bill is arguably one of America’s largest investments in conservation on private and working lands and critically important, too, for hunters and anglers. While public lands present great opportunities to fish and hunt, the game we chase depends on the health of the entire ecosystem, which means supporting farmers and ranchers to better manage natural resources as they provide food for the country.

Grain pouring out of machine. Photo Credit: Matt Vincent

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) recently released its 2023 Farm Bill Platform. Within are 10 Top Priorities using robust conservation funding to build on past successes.

NWF’s Top Priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill

1. Increase Conservation Title Baseline Funding to Meet Producer Demand and Protect and Build on Conservation Funding Provided in The Inflation Reduction Act. 
2. Prevent Conversion of Native Grasslands Through a Nationwide Sodsaver Provision. 
3. Better Align Crop Insurance with Conservation Practices that Reduce Risk and Save Money. Remove barriers to, and provide incentives for, adopting risk-reducing conservation practices within the crop insurance program to lower crop insurance costs and increase on-farm resilience.
4. Improve Equity in the Delivery of Conservation Program Funds and Technical Assistance.
5. Maintain the Linkage Between Conservation Compliance and Crop Insurance Premium Subsidies and Improve Enforcement of These Provisions. 
6. Improve the Conservation Reserve Program.  
7. Maximize Conservation Program Benefits to Wildlife, Climate, And Water and Support for Public Access Programs. 
8. Optimize Carbon Sequestration in Ecologically Appropriate Ways and Create Climate-Smart Forestry Opportunities. 
9. Improve Wildlife Connectivity and Movement.  
10. Enhance USDA’s Data Collection, Measurement, and Analysis Systems.

Farm and windmill at sunset

“In 2021, Farm Bill-funded conservation programs touched more than 45 million acres, an area larger than the entire state of Oklahoma. Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farmers, ranchers, foresters, and private landowners are able to conserve, protect, and restore wildlife and pollinator habitat, sensitive grasslands and wetlands, adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, improve soil health, increase the quality and quantity of water, and create more resilient communities,” according to the platform. “It is critically important for the 2023 Farm Bill to build on past successes with robust conservation funding to address the unprecedented challenges facing our ecosystems, wildlife, and people.”

Hunters on a farm

And while the nature of land-based conservation offers an easier connect to Farm Bill benefits, fishermen and the waters they ply are impacted as well by what happens upstream. “While the Farm Bill funds aspects you’d typically expect in agriculture and food policy, such as subsidies and crop insurance, it also houses the federal government’s largest investment in private lands and waters conservation, known better as the Conservation Title,” said Connor Bevan, Inland Fisheries policy manager for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA). “The Conservation Title funds several programs that allow farmers to voluntarily dedicate a portion of their lands to conservation programs, conserving private lands and the waters that run through them throughout the country. While fisheries may not be the most obvious beneficiary of agricultural conservation, programs within the Conservation Title help expand angler access, create cleaner waters and produce healthier fisheries. The impacts of Farm Bill conservation programs range from mitigating sedimentation in freshwaters to preventing hypoxia in marine waters.”

Airplane flying over farm. Photo Credit: Matt Vincent

The National Wildlife Federation works to ensure that there is adequate funding for programs to help farmers install and maintain conservation practices on their land, as well as land set aside for conservation and wildlife uses. 

At the end of the day Farm Bill conservation programs are highly popular with farmers and ranchers - and beneficial to taxpayers. The National Wildlife Federation is working to ensure that conservation does not continue to be limited due to lack of funding.

The incredible airplane and grain images are credited to the talented Matt Vincent. Other images were submitted by Lew Carpenter. Lew Carpenter is the Director of Conservation Partnerships for the National Wildlife Federation’s independent state affiliates in Arizona, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Nebraska, and New Mexico, the Arizona Wildlife Federation, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Nevada Wildlife Federation, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, and New Mexico Wildlife Federation. An avid hunter now, he came to it later in life, in his early thirties while editing Western Outdoors Magazine in California.

fisherman with catch

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The Great American Outdoors Act will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund while investing in a backlog of public land maintenance, providing current and future generations the outdoor recreation opportunities like boat launches to access fishable waters, shooting ranges, and public lands to hunt as well as the economic stimulus we need right now. 

Tell Congress to Pass the Great American Outdoors Act and Fully Fund LWCF!