The government is us; we are the government, you and I. -Theodore Roosevelt

The Farm Bill


Wildlife Conservation Through the Farm Bill

The federal law known generally as the Farm Bill is slated to be reauthorized again in 2023, and this process is one of the Boone and Crockett Club’s top legislative priorities. But why? The fact is that the Farm Bill supports significant voluntary conservation efforts on our nation’s private lands. This incentive-based, non-regulatory approach benefits agricultural producers but also benefits wildlife and their habitat. 

The Farm Bill section of the B&C website includes background information as well as the Club’s policy recommendations for the 2023 Farm Bill. We hope our members and supporters will learn about this critical conservation bill and support our efforts to ensure it continues to be the primary driver for private land conservation and management for years to come.

What is the Farm Bill?

In the U.S., approximately two-thirds of the land area is in private hands with the vast majority of those roughly 1 billion acres in farms, ranches, or forest land. That’s a lot of land mass that provides a significant amount of the habitat that wildlife depends upon. 

Texas farm during the Dust Bowl in 1938. A stark contrast to farmland made available to hunters today. Photos courtesy Library of Congress (left) and Jodi Stemler (right). 

In 1933, at the height of the Depression and amid the turmoil of the Dust Bowl, Congress passed the first Farm Bill to support farmers and ranchers that produce the food and fiber Americans depend upon. Shortly after, the Soil Conservation Act provided the first federal efforts to help reduce soil erosion and improve conservation on private lands. From that point forward, the Farm Bill has been reauthorized roughly every 5 years, and over time the importance of working lands conservation has been expanded and improved.

Building from the legacy of soil conservation through the Farm Bill, the Food Security Act of 1985 was the first Farm Bill to include a conservation title. This landmark bill authorized the Conservation Reserve Program and created conservation compliance requirements on highly erodible lands and wetlands for producers to be eligible for farm program benefits. 

Since 1985, the conservation provisions in the Farm Bill have grown and adapted but still maintain the premise of voluntary, incentive-based programs to encourage agricultural producers to support conservation on their operations. In addition to grazing and cropland conservation programs, the Farm Bill includes a forestry title that supports private timber operations as well as supporting active forest management on federal lands and cross-boundary with private landowners, states, and tribes. There are also strong provisions to support voluntary easements on agricultural lands, wetlands, and forests to keep working lands in working hands.

Why is the Farm Bill Important to Hunters?

Photo courtesy Jodi Stemler.

As noted, a significant portion of the U.S. land base is in private hands, meaning that private landowners have a huge role in supporting wildlife and their habitats. Finding a way to help producers meet their agricultural objectives while providing the funding and technical assistance to address ecological needs is a win-win prospect, and the Farm Bill does just that. 

Good habitat supports healthy, sustainable populations of wildlife that in turn support regulated harvest—in short, when wildlife has the food, water, and cover they need to survive and thrive, there will be enough of them to sustain hunting. Private lands are essential to this equation since they hold much of the remaining undeveloped habitat in this country. In addition to supporting huntable populations, private lands also benefit at risk species and support endangered species restoration efforts. 

For example, a new, creative initiative through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (which implements many of the Farm Bill conservation programs) is supporting big game migration corridor conservation through a pilot program launched in 2022 in Wyoming that is expected to expand to other western states. Active management of forests through programs like Good Neighbor Authority and Stewardship Contracting Authority (both included within the Farm Bill) make a significant difference in wildlife and forest health, while also reducing risk of catastrophic wildfires, improving water quality and quantity, and addressing climate concerns.

In addition, a provision within the Farm Bill known as the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, or VPA-HIP, provides funding that helps state wildlife agencies offer incentive payments to farmers and ranchers who improve wildlife habitat and allow walk in access for hunting, fishing, or other wildlife-dependent recreation. Programs like Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters Program or the Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program allow individuals who do not have personal access to a farm, wood lot, or ranch the chance to hunt or fish private lands.

So yes, the Farm Bill is wonky federal policy—but it’s public policy that is critical for wildlife and our hunting heritage and the Boone and Crockett Club has consistently been engaged in every reauthorization effort for decades. 

As Congress gears up to reauthorize the Farm Bill in 2023, B&C is actively working with our partners to ensure that the conservation title stands strong and is adapted and improved to address our current conservation needs. 


Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt