May 12, 201
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
The Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group (AWWG) was formed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in 2005 to provide policy recommendations on effective ways to improve conservation programs in the 2008 Farm Bill, with a focus on programs that assist farmers and landowners in running economically sustainable operations while conserving fish and wildlife habitat and enhancing recreational opportunities on private lands. We are made up of representatives from the nation’s leading sportsman and conservation organizations, and together have millions of members across all 50 states.
Thank you for your leadership on conservation and strong support of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). CRP has been a foundation of voluntary private lands conservation since its inception in 1985. CRP has provided millions of acres of habitat for upland birds, waterfowl, and big game across the country, providing tremendous recreational opportunities for hunters and anglers. CRP also protects clean air and water, helps to stabilize topsoil, and provides important economic diversification for rural America. Improved wildlife habitat through CRP has resulted in a direct increase of over $1.4 billion dollars in economic activity in rural areas through hunting and other recreational uses. Establishing and maintaining quality grass habitat on CRP acreage is extremely important to conserving these values.
Farmers are currently in the process of planting record acreages of crops; now more than ever it is critical that federal farm policy helps to assure that we maintain a workable balance between production and conservation, and this is exactly the result CRP has achieved over the past quarter century. By maintaining CRP enrollment as close to its current cap of 32 million acres as possible, the future for fish, wildlife, and farmers will be a bright one. Allowing for penalty‐free early release from CRP contracts would not only result in little to no impact on food prices, but it would be a waste of the investment that taxpayers have made in soil, water, wildlife, and rural economies.
CRP has always had strong support across Administrations and amongst the hunting and fishing community; we hope to continue working with you to guide this important program towards a robust future that strengthens the program’s ability to deliver fish and wildlife benefits, while providing sustainable economic opportunities to the nation’s farmers.
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
National Bobwhite Technical Committee
Izaak Walton League of America
The Wildlife Society
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
The Nature Conservancy
National Wildlife Federation
Wildlife Management Institute