One of the most important pieces of legislation for conservation efforts is the farm bill, a package of funding and regulations that not only encourage farming activities in this country, but protect and fund programs that play a major role in wildlife habitat, especially for waterfowl and other game birds. The previous farm bill expired on September 30, 2012. Late in the previous session, the Senate passed a new five-year farm bill that provided a national Sodsaver program, expanded crop insurance funding as well as strengthened conservation programs. The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee passed their own version of the bill. However, it never came up for a vote in the full house. With the start of a new session of Congress in January, the bill goes back to square one. Sandhills-and-mating-geese-pair-300x199 “We think the senate will basically keep the bill they already passed,” said Dan Wrinn, Director of Public Policy for Ducks Unlimited. “The house will probably have to start over since they didn’t have a final bill to vote on.” The previous bill was extended through September as part of the last-minute fiscal cliff agreement, Wrinn said. The extension allows the bill’s conservation programs to continued enrollment in the Wetlands Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program under the existing caps from the previous bill. However, these cap levels could still be affected by any additional fiscal cliff agreements coming in the next few months. “We like to say these programs are all on life support right now,” Wrinn said. “Our concern is, if they pass another extension, it will pull the life support off.” Senate members, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., already said passing a comprehensive, five-year farm bill is a priority for 2013. The house has also committed to working on a bill, however the timeline in the house is up in the air. “The problem is, when you have these big financial and social issues that require legislative attention, they push off the farm bill discussion,” Wrinn said. “When we talk to the individual representatives and senators, they want to get a farm bill done. With things as they are, it is hard to get the full attention of congress.” The extensions have limited funding, Wrinn said. If a new 5-year bill doesn’t get passed before the next deadline, there will be deep cuts in the conservation efforts contained in the previous bill. “It’s not acceptable,” Wrinn said. What can you do? Call your representatives, Wrinn said. Demand they pass a new, comprehensive 5-year farm bill now. You can find your representatives online by going to this website. Finding your senators is just as easy by clicking here. Wrinn also said that anyone having issues finding their representative’s contact information can contact him directly at dwrinn@ducks.org. By Derrek Sigler