WAHOO – With the new Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018, also known as the Farm Bill, now some area officials are touting increased conservation funding.

Nebraska Game and Parks Agricultural Program Manager Eric Zach said several programs have received an increase in funding with the approval of the Farm Bill.

Zach said the Farm Bill increased the cap for the Conservation Reserve Program from 24 million to 27 million acres of land nationwide.

The CRP’s goal is to pay landowners in exchange for planting different types of vegetation to provide for species like quail, wild turkey, pheasants and deer that thrive in a grassland environment.

Zach said the Farm Bill provided funding of $50 million to the Voluntary Public Access-Habitat Incentives Program. This program’s goal is to negotiate more access into privately owned lands for hunting and fishing. According to a NGPC press release, during the 2018-2019 hunting seasons, more than 317,000 acres of private lands allowed access for hunters, trappers and anglers across the state.

Zach said the Farm Bill also increased funds spent on wildlife habitat practices, such as the removal of eastern red cedar, an invasive species that threatens Nebraska’s rangelands and the species that depend on them.

“The programs are open for anyone wanting to apply,” Zach said. “The level of impact the Farm Bill will have is up to the landowners.”

“This Farm Bill is extremely important for conservation,” Director of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Jim Douglas said.

“It provides much needed resources and policy improvements for private agricultural producers that are also a good fit with fish, wildlife, soil, and water conservation. We greatly appreciate the many long hours and deep dedication exhibited by our Members of Congress, their staffs, and the conservation organizations that helped make this Farm Bill a reality.”

Beyond conservation efforts, the Farm Bill made changes to crop insurances that farmers would be able to apply for, mainly the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC).

“A lot of it is the same,” Chairman of the Corn Growers Association Daniel Wesely of Morse Bluff said.

He said the PLC is an insurance that allows payments to be issued when the expected price of a covered commodity is less than the average market price.

The changes to the PRC include providing all producers with the opportunity to update their payment yields with the 2020 crop year.

Wesely said the ARC insurance policy provides revenue loss coverage when the actual price for a covered commodity is less than the price guaranteed by the ARC.

The ARC changes consist of payments being calculated based on the physical location of the farm rather than the county.

“The way I understand, the PLC may be the way to go but that may change. They are both kind of a gamble,” Wesely said.

The Farm Service Agency could not give comment prior to Dec. 20 finalizing of Farm Bill or be reached afterward due to partial government shut-down.

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