Habitat & Conservation  |  05/31/2024

Policy Update: A Closer Look at the House Farm Bill 


House Committee on Agriculture advances the Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024

Last week, following a 13-hour markup, the House Committee on Agriculture voted to advance the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024. This represents a critical step in the process to complete a five-year farm bill, which is the single most important piece of legislation for conservation on private lands. The May 23 markup of Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson’s (R-PA) bill was the first major Congressional action to be taken since the 2018 Farm Bill expired and received a one-year extension last fall.  

The Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever Government Affairs team has worked closely with Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA), and the members and staff of the House Ag Committee throughout the legislative process. While there is still a long way to go to get this bill across the finish line, we were encouraged to see many of our top policy priorities included in the House Farm Bill.  

So, what’s in the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024, and what would it mean for upland bird habitat and hunters?  

Improvements to CRP 

PF & QF and our partners have been advocating for a number of changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) that will help bring more and better acres into the program. We were glad to see many of these recommendations in the House bill. This includes improved rental rates and enhanced cost-share for high-priority conservation practices, such as those enrolled under state-led efforts like the wildlife-friendly State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE) initiative and Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). The bill also includes increased rental rates for marginal lands under the annual and competitive General signup.  

The bill would allow cost-share for mid-contract management activities and increase payment limitations for the first time since 1985 to account for changes in land value, inflation, and other economic factors. Both changes were in the bipartisan, PF & QF-led CRP Improvement Act.  

While we were excited to see these positive changes included in the bill, we do have concerns about provisions that would reduce rental payments for contract re-enrollments and allow for some contracts to be terminated early. We will continue to work with the committee to emphasize the importance of CRP and its benefits, both on and off farm, to producers and their communities. 

Permanent Investments in Conservation 

By incorporating billions of dollars from the Inflation Reduction Act into the farm bill, the House bill would increase the conservation baseline by 25 percent, a historic and permanent investment in voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for example, would receive over $14 billion in total funding over five years. Because the farm bill requires at least 10 percent of EQIP funding to go to wildlife conservation practices, that means at least $1.4 billion annually will be targeted to projects and contracts that directly benefit wildlife. The recently announced Northern Bobwhite Pilot Project, part of USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife effort, is just one example of the kind of work USDA and partners like PF & QF are doing to advance habitat conservation on working farms, ranches, and private forests, and this increased funding will enable more projects like this in the future.  

Increased Funding for Access 

Sometimes the simplest changes can be some of the most exciting. We were thrilled to see the House bill triples funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) to $150 million. VPA-HIP is a bit of an unsung hero when it comes hunter access on private lands, and increased funding for the program is a top priority for PF & QF in this farm bill.  

Emphasis on Forest Management 

While the Conservation Title gets most of the attention, we cannot forget about the Forestry Title and its myriad provisions that will improve our and USDA’s ability to enhance habitat on both public and private forest lands. The House bill authorizes and improves several programs that encourage the use of prescribed fire as a wildfire reduction strategy and wildlife habitat management tool, and accelerates vegetation management projects in the greater sage grouse range.  

What’s next? 

As of now, there is not a clear path forward for the 2024 Farm Bill. Despite passing out of the committee with bipartisan support, there is still no commitment from leadership to bring the Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024 to the House floor for a vote. Chairman Thompson has signaled the earliest this would happen will be September, due to the Congressional calendar. With only three weeks in session between August and the November elections, the window for making real progress on a farm bill this year is rapidly closing.  

One thing is clear: to get a farm bill done this year, or any year, it will require significant bipartisan cooperation and good faith negotiation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever will continue to work closely with members of both the House and Senate Ag Committees, our agriculture and conservation partners, and other key stakeholders to ensure the final farm bill supports farmers, ranchers, wildlife, hunters and rural communities.  


Advocating for Conservation 

It takes good habitat to produce abundant wildlife and opportunities to hunt—but it also takes robust public funding and sound conservation policy. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s dedicated Government Affairs team works in Washington D.C. and state capitols across America to create and secure funding for programs that benefit the uplands, from the rugged backcountry to the neighboring farm’s “back 40.” Thank you to our chapters, volunteers and members for the generous grassroots and Legislative Action Fund (LAF) support that makes this work possible.  

To learn more about PF & QF’s policy priorities and ways you can help advocate for conservation, visit this page or email advocacy@pheasantsforever.org .