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Farm Bill debate is back on; hunters, anglers hope for more support

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This week, Congress is picking up work on a new Farm Bill and hunters and anglers say billions of dollars in investments in private-lands conservation are at stake.

The Farm Bill expired last fall but was given a one-year extension. It is a large-scale, multiyear law governing and funding agriculture and food programs, including habitat conservation.

Eran Sandquist, Midwest director of conservation delivery for Pheasants Forever, said the last part is vital to the members his organization serves, including the upper Midwest.

"We have a lot of needs in states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, particularly in the prairie areas," Sandquist pointed out. "Private land habitat provided by the Farm Bill, like CRP, is critically important."

CRP is the Conservation Reserve Program, a key provision benefiting sportsmen and women. Advocates say without it, 40 million people would lose access to hunting and fishing opportunities.

The last five-year Farm Bill was approved in 2018 but a renewal effort stalled last year. The Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate have competing ideas in mapping out the newest version of the policy.

Aaron Field, director of private lands conservation for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said despite some of the broader differences among federal lawmakers, there is optimism about providing the necessary support to bolster the landscape for sportsmen and women.

"We have an opportunity in this Farm Bill to, for the first time in a very long time, increase the baseline funding for conservation," Field emphasized. "This is something that's got bipartisan support."

Despite a bipartisan tone for certain elements of the Farm Bill, he acknowledged if talks drag out closer to the election, it will be harder to see compromises take shape. The temporary extension expires Sept. 30.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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