In recent years, free-market groups and environmental activists have demonstrated they can work together effectively to root out wasteful federal subsidies that benefit environmentally destructive development. As such efforts at collaboration expand and move forward, there is one natural constituency that shares significant political overlap with both groups: sportsmen and sportswomen. Long-known for their advocacy of certain causes associated with the political right, public polling demonstrates hunters and anglers also are among the most committed advocates of conservation, reflected in the high priority given to such issues by so-called “hook and bullet” groups.
With Congress preparing to resume work this month on a long-term Farm Bill, this constituency could prove instrumental in settling a key issue that divides the differing versions passed by the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate and the Republican-controlled U.S. House: whether to attach so-called “conservation compliance” requirements to federal subsidies for crop insurance. This brief argues that conservation compliance has proven crucial over the past three decades to maintaining various wildlife habitats of value to hunters and anglers. Transitioning to a new paradigm in which crop insurance programs – including new “shallow loss” programs – are the primary means of providing farm supports, as contemplated by the House bill, without enacting a corresponding expansion in conservation compliance, threatens grave harm to hunters and anglers’ priorities.