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Balancing Act Major Provisions Compared to Current Law




Strengthening the Conservation Compact

Farmers benefiting from subsidies that reduce the cost of their crop insurance policies must take basic steps to protect soil and wetlands.

The 1985 farm bill established this link between crop insurance subsidies and conservation standards. The link was severed in the 1996 farm bill.

Updates 25 year-old plans to better protect soil and water and reflect current technology and farming systems.

No such provision.

Gives producers who have never been covered by the conservation compact 5 years to get their soil conservation plans in place.

Producers covered by the compact when it was enacted in 1985 had until 1990 to get their plans in place.

Sets stricter standards for soil conservation on highly erodible land; requires reducing soil erosion to no more than twice the established sustainable rate of erosion and requires farmers to prevent highly damaging gully erosion.

Current law requires only a “substantial reduction in soil erosion.

Mandates funding from the Commodity Credit Corporation to help farmers plan and implement conservation practices and to monitor and enforce the compact.

No such provision.

Reduces by 50 percent the amount of a producer’s crop insurance premium that taxpayers pay on land that has been converted from native prairie and grassland to subsidized crop production; the reduction in premium subsidies is only in effect for the first four years after the conversion occurred.

Similar provision is limited in effect to the Northern Great Plains and only if the Governor of the State sanctions implementation of the provision.

Targeting the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)

Provides options for landowners to seek long-term or permanent easements to protect environmentally sensitive land.

No such provision.

Sets aside 600,000 acres a year for enrollment in special initiatives such as the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

No such provision.

Phases the program down to 23 million acres over 5-years and uses the savings to fund easements and special initiatives.

Current law allows enrollment of 32 million acres; farm bills passed by the Senate and House Agriculture Committee in 2012 phased down enrollment to 25 million acres.

Reforming the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)

Prohibits CAFOs from receiving EQIP funding to build manure containment facilities and other infrastructure.

The 1996 farm bill, which authorized EQIP, included the prohibition; the prohibition was struck in the 2002 farm bill.

Creates a conservation loan program to provide low-cost direct ($200 million per year) and guaranteed ($150 per year) loans to producers interested in investing in high-cost, capital-intensive structures and equipment.

USDA Farm Services Agency conservation loan programs is not funded and is not authorized to provide low-cost loans.

Increases payments for low-cost but high-impact practices such as nutrient management, integrated pest management, grazing management among others.

No such provision

Limits payments to individuals or entities to $150,000 over 5-years to make the program accessible to more farmers.

Limits payments to $300,000 over 6-years.

Increases the amount of payments producers may receive for conservation practices related to organic production or to making a transition to organic production to $30,000 a year or $150,000 over 5 years.

Limits the amount of payments that can be received to $20,000 a year or $80,000 over 6 years.

Merges the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program with EQIP and mandates that 10 percent of EQIP funds be used to enhance or protect wildlife habitat.

No such provision. WHIP authorized as a stand-alone program.

Helps livestock producers reduce their use of non-therapeutic antibiotics they use in their operations.

No such provision.

Mandates funding for the Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) program to $100 million per year.

$37.5 million per year currently mandated for air quality related projects; no overall funding mandate for the program.

Enhancing the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)

Mandates that 10 million acres be enrolled each year at an average cost of $23 per acre; equivalent funding to current law.

Mandates that 12.8 million acres be enrolled each year at an average cost of $18 per acre.

Producers must be adequately addressing 2 priority resource concerns in order to be eligible for CSP.

Producers must be adequately addressing 1 priority resource concern in order to be eligible for CSP.

Producers must be increasing conservation enough to be adequately treating at least one additional priority resource concern by the end of the 5-year contract period to be eligible for CSP.

Same as current law.

Producers seeking to renew a 5-year CSP contract must agree to adequately treat all priority resource concerns designated for his or her region or area.

Producer must agree to adopt new conservation activities, as determined by the Secretary.

Producers and seek more than one contract renewal.

Producers limited to one contract renewal.

Provides supplemental payments to producers maintaining or transitioning to managed intensive rotational grazing systems.

No such provision.

Provides payments for conservation practices related to organic production.

No such provision.

Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)

Authorizes the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP).

Reforms and strengthens the current Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative (CCPI).

Funding and authorities of all farm bill conservation programs can be used to further RCPP projects.

Only funding and authorities of EQIP, CSP and the Wetland Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP) can be used to support projects.

Mandates that at least 8 percent of funding from all conservation programs be used to support RCPP projects.

Limits funding to no more than 6 percent of the three programs – EQIP, CSP and WREP.

Provides $100 million a year in additional funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to support RCPP projects.

No such provision.

Provides for funds for partner organizations to carry out critical activities such as planning, outreach, and monitoring.

Prohibits such funding to partners.

Focuses resources on protecting water quality and water supplies including “critical conservation areas” designated to protect regionally, nationally or internationally significant bodies of water or sources of municipal or irrigation water.

No such provision.

Consolidating and Streamlining Easement Programs

Consolidates three existing easement programs – the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) and the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) into the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

No such provision.

Provides $704 million annually for ACEP; equivalent to combined funding for the consolidated programs in 2012.

Authorization for enrolling new acres has expired.