“The Farm Bill represents a key opportunity for Congress to combat the joint climate change and biodiversity loss crises. To ensure our nation’s working lands are resilient and productive, climate change and biodiversity loss must be addressed. Wildlife cannot be an afterthought.”
As hearings begin on the renewal of the Farm Bill, Defenders of Wildlife is encouraging Congress to address our nation’s joint biodiversity and climate crises, livestock-wildlife conflict prevention, equitable access and accountability.
“The Farm Bill represents a key opportunity for Congress to combat the joint climate change and biodiversity loss crises,” said Mary Pfaffko, senior policy analyst for private lands at Defenders of Wildlife. “To ensure our nation’s working lands are resilient and productive, climate change and biodiversity loss must be addressed. Wildlife cannot be an afterthought.”
The Farm Bill is among America’s most important federal policies for wildlife conservation and maintaining climate-resilient ecosystems that benefit landowners and wildlife. Roughly 70 percent of land in the lower 48 states is privately owned, with more than 40 percent managed for agriculture. These lands encompass many unique ecosystems, and more than 70 percent of species listed under the Endangered Species Act rely on private lands, with 10 percent inhabiting only private lands. Voluntary programs support producers to help conserve wildlife on their land, while protecting pollinators and maintaining soil health help enhance our nation’s food security.
The climate change and biodiversity crises are inextricably linked. Biodiverse ecosystems are both more climate-resilient and effective in providing important mitigation services such as carbon sequestration.
By providing agricultural practices with co-benefits for wildlife and climate mitigation, Farm Bill conservation programs provide unique opportunities to address biodiversity loss and climate change, while also increasing the resilience of agricultural operations.
Recommendations to address the biodiversity crisis in the Farm Bill include:
• Develop a national-level ranking question under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that increases the score for projects identified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as having co-benefits for climate and wildlife.
• Increase the cost-share rate to 90 percent under EQIP and CSP for practices and enhancements that have co-benefits for climate and wildlife.
• Adopt a definition of “climate resilience” that incorporates the role of biodiversity.
• Provide national-level funding for all Working Lands for Wildlife initiatives.
• Restore mandatory funding for the Healthy Forest Reserve Program.
• Compensate losses caused by threatened or endangered species at 100 percent of fair market value under the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP).
• Expand eligibility for LIP to tribal entities, such as livestock associations, by exempting them from LIP’s adjusted gross income (AGI) limit on eligibility.
• Increase EQIP and CSP set asides for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers from 5 percent to 10 percent.
• Require that conservation practices address a habitat-resource concern to count toward the 10 percent set-aside for wildlife under EQIP.
• Allocate one percent of total annual funding available for new enrollments from all major Title II conservation programs for measurement, evaluation and reporting of program outcomes.
• Direct NRCS to report on the impact of the Swampbuster provision on preventing the conversion of wetlands to cropland and other agricultural uses.