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Conservation groups fight to save CRP, other resource programs

A coalition of 16 conservation and wildlife groups Wednesday called for a farm bill that continues or expands existing USDA conservation programs.

"Their very viability is in jeopardy," said Tim Zink, a spokesman for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which released the recommendations of the agriculture and wildlife working group.

The group wants the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) expanded to 45 million acres, up from the 2002 farm bill authorization of 39 million acres.

Dave Nomsen, a lobbyist for Pheasants Forever, one of the 16 conservation groups, said the CRP "has been USDA's most successful program in its history." Besides saving soil, protecting water supplies for cities and capturing the greenhouse gas, carbon, the CRP provides habitat for some 3.5 million pheasants.

The group also supports a national conservation security program, as envisioned by the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) but it wants more measurable results for wildlife. And it shouldn't detract from the CRP or Wetlands Reserve Program, Nomsen said.

"It shouldn't replace or redirect funding for those important programs," he said.

Pheasants Forever and other members of the agriculture and wildlife working group are also opposing a recent USDA proposal to eliminate new enrollments in the CRP for the next two years.

Another idea backed by the 16 conservation groups is called Sodsaver. It would deny all farm program benefits, including crop insurance and disaster payments, to anyone who breaks up native prairie to plant program crops.

The working group's proposal, "Growing Conservation in the Farm Bill," can be found here.

A coalition of 16 conservation and wildlife groups Wednesday called for a farm bill that continues or expands existing USDA conservation programs.

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