As the U.S. Congress prepares to rewrite some of the nation’s most successful conservation programs, those contained in the Farm Bill, the Healing Our Waters coalition has released a new report urging lawmakers to expand and fully fund programs in the bill that are essential in the effort to restore the Great Lakes. Farm Bill programs provide farmers with funding and technical assistance to restore and protect wildlife habitat, which supports the regional $18 billion annual hunting, fishing and wildlife watching industry. The programs also restore wetlands and other habitat that serves to filter pesticides, fertilizers and sediment out of water that millions of Great lakes residents depend on for drinking, bathing, fishing, and swimming. Yet, as the new report makes clear, more than 1,000 Great Lakes farmers who want to enroll more than 117,000 acres in one of the Farm Bill’s most successful programs – the Wetland Reserve Program – are turned away every year due to lack of funding.
The report, “Cultivating Restoration: How Farm Bill Conservation Programs Help Heal Our Great Lakes,” comes as the U.S. Congress considers renewing legislation that will set the tone for national conservation funding priorities for the next five years.