Activities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA) are structured around the premise that the health of our society, the stability of our food supply, and the functioning of ecosystems directly depend on balancing agricultural production, land stewardship, and natural resource conservation. To that end, the FSA administers and manages farm commodity, crop insurance, credit, environmental, conservation, energy, forestry, and emergency assistance programs for farmers, ranchers, and forest owners as laid out by Congress through a network of national, state, and county offices.
Several of the FSA-administered programs benefit priority wildlife species on private lands while providing economic stability for agriculture and landowners. A shining example is the 25-year old Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which provides landowners a voluntary means of placing ecologically important lands under conservation reserve in return for technical assistance, rental payments, and other financial assistance. Lands under conservation reserve have limited land-use restrictions that help protect them from erosion while improving water and air quality and conserving wildlife habitat.
CRP wildlife initiatives often work in concert with conservation programs administered by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – combining to create landscape-level benefits for a suite of different species. The success of these initiatives is due not only to USDA incentives, but also to longstanding partnerships with producers, federal and state agencies, and conservation organizations around the country, including the Intermountain West Joint Venture.
Recognizing that strategically coordinated use of USDA programs can have broad-reaching and positive effects for the conservation of bird habitat, the IWJV and FSA collaborate under an established agreement to strengthen cooperation between the two entities. Activities under this agreement include, but are not limited to:
- Delivery of information and educational materials
- Technology transfer
- Technical assistance
- Development and assistance in implementing conservation plans
- Practice certification
- Compliance monitoring and collaboration on research
This cooperative agreement will help to improve or sustain bird habitat while keeping producers and ranchers on the land.