On May 31, 2011, B.A.S.S. joined other conservation colleagues in signing on a letter to U.S. Congressional leadership voicing our opposition to proposed funding cuts in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Bill conservation programs while reaffirming strong support of critical private lands programs.
For 25 years, the Agriculture Department has used Farm Bill conservation programs to assist farmers and landowners in effectively running economically sustainable operations while conserving important fish and wildlife habitat, safeguarding clean air and water, stabilizing topsoil and enhancing recreational opportunities on private lands. These programs are successful, costâefficient and highly popular with landowners, as well as anglers and hunters.
However, deep cuts in Farm Bill conservation programs have recently been proposed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture. These cuts would come in addition to the $500 million in reductions that Farm Bill conservation accounts suffered as a result of the fiscal year 2011 appropriations process. Together, these cuts put the future viability of those programs at great risk. Farmers are currently in the process of planting record acreages of crops. Now more than ever federal farm policy must help assure that we maintain a workable balance between production and conservation. This is exactly what Farm Bill conservation programs have achieved over the years.
But now, virtually every Farm Bill conservation program is slated for a major cut in the FY 2012 budget proposal, including highly successful programs such as the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), and the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP). Even more serious, the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive program (VPA/HIP), which expands economically important hunting and angling opportunities on private lands would be completely defunded. Reducing or eliminating these programs will stifle rural economies and squander away 25 years of taxpayer investments in soil, water, and fish and wildlife resource conservation.
Fishing and hunting contribute tens of billions of dollars to rural communities and the national economy. Farm Bill conservation programs provide income to producers as well as the necessary fish and wildlife habitats so that sportsmen and sportswomen can enjoy quality experiences in the field and on the water. As such, these programs have the strong support of those in the fishing and hunting community and the businesses that cater to them.
In addition to B.A.S.S. LLC, others signing the letter included the American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, National Bobwhite Technical Committee, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Quail Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy , The Wildlife Society, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, and the Wildlife Management Institute