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Sportfishing leaders highlight Farm Bill programs that support healthy fisheries

by American Sportfishing Association 22 Mar 2023 20:36 UTC

The Fisheries in the Farm Bill Coalition emphasize the important role America's farmlands have on inland and marine waters.

Congress prepares for the 2023 Farm Bill, the American Sportfishing Association, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and Trout Unlimited announced the Fisheries in the Farm Bill Coalition's priorities for the bill.

The coalition's priorities represent key investments in agricultural conservation that will benefit freshwater and saltwater fisheries.

Every five years, Congress must turn its attention to the reauthorization of the Farm Bill. As the bill was most recently authorized in 2018, Congress must reauthorize the package before it expires in September 2023. America's farms, ranches and forests are intrinsically linked to fisheries. Through the Farm Bill's Conservation Title - the nation's largest private investment in land and water conservation - farmers, ranchers and forest owners have dedicated their lands for conservation purposes, including many programs that benefit fisheries conservation and fishing access.

"As the largest investment in conservation on private lands, the Farm Bill is crucial to the health of America's waterways and its fishing pastime," ASA Inland Fisheries Policy Manager Connor Bevan. "ASA and the sportfishing industry encourage Congress to consider the Coalition's priorities to safeguard aquatic habitat, expand opportunities for recreational fishing and ensure healthy fisheries."

The House Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture Committee are holding hearings and accepting input on Farm Bill programs in preparation for reauthorization later this year. The Fisheries in the Farm Bill Coalition calls on Congress to improve fisheries conservation and growth of the recreational fishing industry by addressing the following in the bill:

  • Ensuring fish and wildlife conservation is a priority equal to soil and water conservation in all USDA conservation programs.
  • Emphasizing the value and eligibility of Conservation Title programs for fish and aquatic resources.
  • Ensuring that benefits for fish and wildlife through Conservation Title programs are measurable, are purposeful, and committed during initial planning by the State Technical Committees.
  • Streamlining the application, contracting and reporting processes across all programs to ensure the maximum conservation benefits and incentives for farmers, ranchers and landowners are realized.
"Unless they are a farmer or landowner themselves and have seen firsthand what the Farm Bill can do for water and aquatic habitat conservation, most anglers are unaware of the value of the legislation for their fisheries," said Chris Horton, CSF's Senior Director of Fisheries Policy. "For this next reauthorization, we wanted to make sure anglers have a seat at the table in support of continuing the Farm Bill's conservation legacy and what it means for the fish we love to chase."

"The Farm Bill is the single most effective conservation vehicle for private lands in America. Farmers, ranchers and really all landowners are key to caring for and recovering wild and native trout and salmon fisheries," said Trout Unlimited President and CEO Chris Wood. "The voluntary conservation programs of the Farm Bill help to make the places we live, love and fish healthier and more sustainable. Sportsmen and women around the nation need Congress to make passage of the Farm Bill's conservation programs a high priority."

The Fisheries in the Farm Bill Coalition convened leading recreational fishing and conservation organizations, including: American Catfishing Association, American Sportfishing Association, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Bass Anglers Sportsman Society, The Bass Federation, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, International Game Fish Association, Major League Fishing, National Professional Anglers Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and The Walleye Federation.

More information on the Coalition's priorities may be found here.

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