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Conservationists claim victory on new farm bill

By Steve Karnowski

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, April 5 2014 5:14 p.m. MDT

In this March 25, 2014 photo Red Angus cattle graze on native Big Bluestem grass at Daybreak Ranch near Highmore in central South Dakota. Jim Faulstich, who manages about 8,000 acres with his son-in-law, is pleased that conservation programs fared better in the new farm bill than many people expected.

Eric Landwehr, Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Wildlife and environmental groups are claiming victory when it comes to conservation under the new farm bill.

Two of their top priorities made it into the law, which set federal farm policy for the next five years.

One is "conservation compliance," which means farmers will have to use good conservation practices on highly erodible lands and protect wetlands to qualify for crop insurance premium subsidies.

The other creates "sodsaver" protections to discourage farmers from plowing up native grasslands in the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana and Nebraska.

It wasn't a total victory, though. The $57.6 billion in the farm bill for conservation programs over the next 10 years represents a net reduction of $4 billion. And conservationists are disappointed that fewer acres can be enrolled in the popular Conservation Reserve Program.

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