Congress Passes Critical Farm Bill
Thank you to World Wildlife Funds, Martha Kauffman, Managing Director for the Northern Great Plains and Melinda Cep, Senior Director for Policy of US Markets and Food Team. Both women worked diligently with policy makers, farmers, ranchers and several first nation tribes over many months in developing policies, which positively benefit the agricultural community, yet sustain a healthy Northern Great Plains eco-system.
The following key measures have been included in the bill:
Strengthened and expanded the Sodsaver policy, which dis-incentivizes the conversion of native sod to cropland by reducing federal subsidies for crop insurance premiums, on land which is converted from prairie to cropland.
Closure of the “alfalfa loophole” which had allowed producers to skirt the Sodsaver policy, by converting prairie to a non-insured, non-annual crop such as alfalfa, before planting an insured crop such as corn or soybeans. In addition, the USDA now has a mandate to track and report grassland loss by county.
Maintained the minimum conservation requirements when filing and receiving federal crop insurance subsidies. (Conservation compliance is required for the majority of farm program payments, loans, disaster assistance conservation programs and crop insurance premiums. If out of compliance the benefits of participation may be lost.)
Maintained Baseline Funding for Conservation Title II. Funding under Title II assists in developing public/private partnerships by providing technical assistance and cost-sharing opportunities for landowners who voluntarily wish to improve habitats for fish and wildlife, reduce erosion or address other natural resource concerns on their land. 
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates Farm Bill conservation spending will exceed $56 billion over the next ten years—approximately 4 percent of the overall 10-year baseline of total Farm Bill funding ($1.3trillion).
The acreage cap was increased to 27 million acres for farmers enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). The CRP provides financial and technical assistance to enrollees who replace crops on environmentally sensitive land with plantings, which improve environmental quality.
Contracts, financial and technical assistance will continue to be offered by Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to producers who meet various resource stewardship requirements on working lands. The total amount of land under the CSP will remain between 8 – 10 million acres.
Wildlife Society Policy Brief – https://wildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Policy-Brief_FarmBill_FINAL.pdf Accessed: January 22, 2019
Congressional Budget Office. 2018. CBO’s January 2018 Baseline for Farm Programs. https://wildlife.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/Policy-Brief_FarmBill_FINAL.pdf Access: January 22, 2019
Back in June 2018, I wrote an op-ed on the farm bill, published by the Minneapolis StarTribune. It was just one of many similar pieces submitted throughout the USA by my colleagues of the World Wildlife Funds National Council/ subcommittee the Northern Great Plains. We are volunteers from varying backgrounds and experience, all with a passion for sustaining and restoring the native Grasslands of the Northern Great Plains. We are proud to be a public voice for this critical eco-system.