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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. While I'm not in opposition to the proposed amendment, I do have an amendment that I had planned to offer. However, the process is going so fast and I was not here in time, but it speaks to the Wetlands Reserve Program at USDA, commonly referred to as the WRP program.
To date, WRP has restored over 2.5 million acres with over 12,000 private landowners. WRP benefits private landowners by restoring land that should have never been cleared for agriculture. The public benefits from the reduced financial demand for disaster assistance and/or crop insurance funds from lands that experience repeated losses; significant long-term conservation benefits obtained from the protection of wildlife habitat; the improvement of water quality; the increase of flood storage; and the reduction of soil erosion.
The House farm bill we are considering today consolidates into a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. This new program will consist of agricultural easements and wetlands easements.
The components of the amendment that I have offered today are simple. First, it makes the ownership eligibility requirement for wetland easements equal to the other conservation programs by returning to the pre-2008 farm bill requirements of 1-year ownership instead of 7 years.
My amendment's last change excludes the wettest soils from the county enrollment caps. Soils in these classes frequently flood and retain moisture at levels that severely impair or prevent farming. By allowing the lands that are the least economical to farm to be enrolled in a wetland easement, we will save in potential publicly funded disaster assistance and reduce the overall cost of crop insurance.
Mr. Chairman, all of these changes have been adopted in the Senate farm bill. The WRP is reshaping how wetland conservation is carried out on private lands and is doing so in a cost-effective manner.
Had I had the opportunity, I would have offered this amendment. However, after consultation with the chair and ranking member, there is agreement that I will withdraw the amendment, and we will ensure that these important changes are considered in conference.
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