By Adam Livingston
If you read the headlines nowadays, you could be forgiven for thinking that there is less and less that unites us as a country. But a string of legislative victories expanding federal funding for conservation paints a more hopeful picture, suggesting that Americans (and, at times, our elected representatives) can still come together on issues that matter.
From increased funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) in the 2018 Farm Bill and permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 2019 to passage of the Great American Outdoors Act and the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act in 2020, we have seen continued investments in programs that help land trusts work with willing landowners to protect farms, ranches and habitat. SRT, along with allies around the nation, supported these bills, and we continue to collaborate with partners to bring federal conservation funding to the Southern Sierra and San Joaquin Valley.
The recently-signed Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provides additional resources for agricultural conservation, investing nearly $20 billion in farmland protection, conservation-oriented land management practices, technical assistance and related programs. In addition to $1.4 billion for ACEP, the IRA includes $8.45 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $4.95 billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and $3.25 billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program. SRT has direct experience with some of these programs, and we will be doing everything we can to see that the new funding contributes to agricultural conservation in our region.
At the same time, we will be working with allies in the land trust community and beyond to help inform next year’s update of the Farm Bill. Even with increased allocations for ACEP, and state-level investments like the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program, the overall need for farmland conservation far exceeds the available funding for projects. SRT will continue to support expanded investments in Farm Bill programs, as well as streamlined application and eligibility requirements and robust incentives for climate-smart land management practices.
It is our hope that there will be more good news to share when the 2023 Farm Bill takes shape. In the meantime, we remain grateful for all that SRT’s supporters do to make this work possible.