Pheasants Forever’s Top Five 2012 Farm Bill Priorities
Today, I was proud to represent Pheasants Forever in front of the U.S. House of Representative’s Agriculture Subcommittee, a major step in the 2012 federal Farm Bill legislative process. Pheasants Forever testified on the most important aspects of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and what the organization feels are other necessary provisions in the 2012 Farm Bill.
Pheasants Forever expressed concern over the rapidly changing landscape of the northern plains, where CRP acreage loss, native prairie land conversion and tile drainage has accelerated. Pheasants Forever believes the 2012 Farm Bill can offer real solutions to these issues, solutions that carry the support of both sportsmen and a bipartisan coalition.
In his opening remarks, U.S. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson applauded Minnesota’s Ottertail County Pheasants Forever chapter on the group’s $3 million body of historical conservation work (Peterson recently attended the chapter’s banquet). Fellow Minnesota Representative Tim Walz and Pennsylvania Congressman Glenn Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry, also stood up for various conservation policies, showcasing the bipartisan support.
Congress must pass a strong conservation title in the next Farm Bill, and Pheasants Forever is endorsing a platform of five necessities for the bill to seriously support conservation:
1. Reauthorize CRP. With approximately 6 million acres set to expire in 2012 and an additional 3 million acres in 2013, the Conservation Reserve Program is expiring acres at an alarming rate. Congress has to act to pass a 2012 Farm Bill and reauthorize CRP so the program can rebuild going forward.
2. A Competitive Conservation Reserve Program – Pheasants Forever understands and supports the need for an economically competitive and targeted Conservation Reserve Program and the reauthorization USDA’s most successful conservation programs in order to ensure the future of CRP and improve the program’s overall value. Conservation programs such as CP33 Buffer Acres, CP37 Duck Nesting Acres, and CP38 SAFE Acres offer the ability to turn every CRP acre into a specifically targeted approach to wildlife conservation and environmental sensitivity, while typically offering producers more competitive rental rates than general CRP contracts.
3. Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) Acres Baseline and Permanent Funding – WRP acts as American’s number one wetlands restoration program, improving wetland conservation, mitigating wetlands loss, providing migratory bird and fisheries habitat and improving water quality. “Wetlands are some of the most valuable pieces of land for wildlife and environmental quality,” says Nomsen, “In addition to permanently funded wetlands protections, an acres baseline for this program needs to be established, thereby ensuring a constant minimum of what we can improve upon.”
4. Continuation of Open Fields Hunting Access Programs. The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program is an innovative program used to help fund dwindling public access to private lands, which constitutes the greatest threat to hunting in the United States today. Pheasants Forever supports the permanent authorization and funding for this program, which benefits both wildlife habitat and hunting access. “It is crucial to give sportspeople a place to experience the outdoors, and this voluntary program creates a win-win relationship for the landowner and the outdoorsman,” says Nomsen.
5. Strengthened “Sodsaver” or Non-cropland Conversion Provisions – Sodsaver provisions would help conserve one of America’s most iconic and threatened ecosystems: our native grasslands. Grasslands provide essential habitat and breeding grounds for countless species of North American ducks and other recreationally important species like pheasants and deer. These provisions would save taxpayer dollars and conserve critical habitat while maintaining farmers’ abilities to manage their lands as they see fit.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
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