Contact: Cristine Romano cromano@xxxxxxxxxxx <mailto:cromano@xxxxxxxxxxx> 202/861-2242 PERRY PLUMART, AUDUBON GOVERNMENT RELATIONS DIRECTOR, STATEMENT ON THE 2002 FARM BILL BECOMING LAW Washington, D.C., May 13th 2002 - "We made significant progress in making conservation an integral part of the new 2002 Farm Bill. Just signed into law, the bill provides for $17.1 billion in new money over 10 years for conservation programs-more money for birds, wildlife, and their habitat, than has ever been contained in a farm bill. "With input from state directors and others in the Audubon family, Audubon's public policy goals for the farm bill were outlined and reviewed by the Board of Directors just over a year ago. The goals and the progress we made towards achieving them are outlined below. "One of Audubon's top priorities, the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) is included in the new farm law. This new program calls for enrolling 2 million acres to protect and restore native grasslands. The GRP will protect critical habitat for declining grassland songbirds like the grasshopper sparrow, lark bunting, and western meadowlark. "In addition, we were successful in expanding the Conservation Reserve Program by more than 10 percent to 39.2 million acres, and we achieved significant increases in acreage or funding for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and the Wetlands Reserve Program. "The conservation provisions are only a small part of the overall new farm law. There are many bad and questionable provisions contained in the farm package including significant subsidies to grain-growing operations that will give an unfair competitive advantage to large producers and for commodities that likely violate international trade agreements. Criticism of these provisions is well deserved and we will do everything possible to blunt the impact of these provisions in the implementation phase. "Audubon fought hard to get the best possible conservation provisions possible in the final version sent to the President. Significant increases in conservation funding failed narrowly on the House floor last summer. The final bill even fell short of the conservation funding levels that passed the Senate. Strong commodity and agribusiness interests fought hard to limit every dollar going to conservation, and the Bush Administration provided little leadership on the overall farm bill, including the conservation provisions. Still, in a difficult climate, the legislation contains real conservation victories that will affect millions of acres of bird and wildlife habitat throughout the nation. "Audubon will now work hard to ensure that the implementation and funding of the 2002 Farm Bill provides the best conservation and bird and wildlife habitat benefits possible." Audubon Guiding Principles and Farm Bill Provisions Goal: More funding for incentive-based conservation, not less: Expanded Conservation Reserve Program to 39.2 million acres. New Grasslands Reserve Program with short-term to permanent agreements/easements New Conservation Security Program to reward farmers for applying conservation practices to working lands Expanded Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program funding by ten-fold to $700 million. Expanded Farmable Wetlands Pilot to 1 million-acre national program. Expanded Wetlands Reserve Program to over 2 million acres. Expanded Farmland Protection Program to $100 million per year to protect working farms from development . Next steps: Participate in rules/regulations process to insure on-the-ground effectiveness and feasibility. Participate in outreach and implementation of programs, especially Farmable Wetlands and GRP (both programs with a prairie genesis). Goal: Concurrent with support for incentive-based programs, existing conservation compliance provisions should be strengthened and expanded: Audubon strongly supported Senator Durbin's amendment that would have significantly deterred the continuing conversion of grasslands to crop production. The provisions were lost, but the new Grasslands Reserve Program was established. This program will at least provide an incentive-based alternative to conversion. The Swampbuster provisions survived the conference and are still law. Next steps: Promote participation in the new GRP as a deserved reward for protecting a critically important native natural resource. Be vigilant of efforts to dilute swampbuster provisions. This is critically important in the wake of the US Supreme Court decision limiting federal protections for isolated wetlands. Continue to be actively involved in ongoing wetland issues in South Dakota subsequent to the 1999 Audubon lawsuit against the Department of Agriculture National Resource Conservation Service that prevented the draining of agricultural wetlands. This is the frontline of the battle to protect isolated wetlands across the nation. Goal: Soil, water, air and wildlife benefits must be treated as valuable conservation commodities: The new GRP will provide incentives to protect grasslands from conversion to cropland and treat remaining native grasslands critical to threatened and endangered plants and animals as "conservation commodities". The new Conservation Security Program will provide rewards for practices on working farms and treat that land stewardship as a "conservation commodity". Next steps: Actively engage to promote participation in this new program. Goal: Agricultural policy and conservation programs must be expanded beyond traditional farm commodities, so that small, non-conventional farmers do not fall through the cracks: Program support was expanded for wool, mohair, honey, apples, lentils, pulse crops and other specialty crops. Next steps: Work through the rules/regulations process to provide program eligibility beyond conventional production agriculture (e.g. other specialty crops, organic farming, etc.). Goal: Innovative technical assistance on the ground is critical to any effort to advance sound conservation stewardship. Adequate funding for conservation program field support staff is imperative: Full funding for technical assistance will be authorized for each conservation program. Next steps: Work to insure that the technical assistance needed to effectively implement conservation programs is fully funded. Continue to provide field support to assist and facilitate conservation program implementation.