The Farm Bill is federal legislation that funds a variety of U.S. food and agriculture policies. It began in 1933 when Congress passed the Agricultural Adjustment Act in response to the Dust Bowl. The Food Security Act of 1985 was the first Farm Bill to include a conservation title, providing financial incentives to agricultural producers through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).Today, the Farm Bill is the largest source of funding for conservation on private lands, with nearly $28 billion in the 2014 Farm Bill.
In Washington, the Farm Bill delivers many benefits to fish and wildlife, including:
- Protecting and developing shrubsteppe habitat for sage grouse and mule deer.
- Establishing and improving riparian buffers along salmon streams.
- Correcting fish passage barriers.
- Improving water quality and forest health.
- Creating conservation easements to protect wetlands and agricultural lands from development.
These conservation efforts can also enhance hunting and fishing access opportunities, particularly on private lands.
The Conservation Title of the Farm Bill contains multiple programs, often grouped into four categories: Working Lands Programs, the CRP, Easement Programs, and Partnership Programs. Farm Bill conservation programs are voluntary and incentive-based, with technical and financial assistance serving as the primary incentives. Farm Bill funding is often an integral part of partnerships that bring together producers, non-governmental organizations, local, state, and federal agencies, tribes, and others.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife(WDFW) is the lead agency for an Regional Conservation Partnership Program project called the Southwest Washington Small Forest Lands Conservation Partnership; a web app is available to provide information and help forest landowners contact local conservation district and Department of Natural Resources staff for technical assistance.
WDFW has a team of private lands wildlife biologists who can provide assistance with Farm Bill-funded wildlife conservation projects on private lands. If you are interested in learning more, please contact your local private lands wildlife biologist or your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Service Center.