RL34060 - Conservation and the 2007 Farm Bill
6-May-2008; Tadlock Cowan and Renee Johnson; 44 p.
Update: Previous releases:
August 27, 2007
July 16, 2007
Abstract: Conservation is playing a prominent role in the development of a farm bill by the 110th Congress. Major conservation topics include determining the priorities for the conservation effort; deciding whether any existing programs or activities should be modified or eliminated; deciding whether new programs or activities should be added to the effort; and determining funding levels for the overall conservation effort and for each program.
The House completed action on its version of the farm bill (H.R. 2419) on July 27, 2007, passing it by a vote of 231 to 191. Many options for conservation had been offered as the legislation moved through the House, but the conservation title was passed as reported by the committee and modified by a chairman’s mark. In summary, this legislation would increase funding for many conservation programs and add a number of small new programs to the conservation portfolio, and halt new enrollment into the Conservation Security Program.
The Senate Agriculture Committee reported its version of the farm bill (S. 2302) on October 25, 2007 (S.Rept. 110-220). Beyond the adoption of a chairman’s mark, the conservation title was altered little in committee. During floor action, the Senate adopted an amended version of the committee bill combined with a revenue bill (S. 2242) as a substitute (S.Amdt. 3500 to H.R. 2419). The Senate passed its version of the farm bill on December 14 (H.R. 2419, amended) by a vote of 79 to 14 after adopting a wide-ranging manager’s amendment (S.Amdt. 3855). In summary, this legislation would create a new program that combines the Conservation Security and Environmental Quality Incentives Programs, provide level funding for most existing conservation programs, and create new sub-programs within existing programs.
Congressional agriculture leaders and the Administration are currently negotiating the size of an overall funding increase for agriculture under the new farm bill. The House, working with the Administration, is proposing an increase of about $6 billion above a CBO estimate of approximately $597 billion over 10 years, while the Senate is proposing an increase of $12.3 billion. After an overall number is agreed to, the funds must then be allocated among all areas of agriculture, and the portion provided for conservation must be allocated among the many programs. Congress is under great pressure to complete the farm bill because producers wants to know the policy changes as they make planting decisions, and because the farm bill expires on March 15 and would revert to law enacted in 1949 if not extended. For conservation, inaction would terminate almost all programs.
This report introduces some of the issues that are influencing the development of a conservation title. It then reviews major provisions passed by both chambers, followed by some of the alternative conservation proposals that were offered. An appendix compares current law with the conservation provisions, as passed by both chambers, in more detail. This report is limited to the conservation title. However, conservation topics are also addressed elsewhere in the farm bill, including the energy, forestry, and research titles; those provisions may be discussed in CRS reports about those titles.