Posts Tagged ‘2012 Farm Bill’

Senate Sabotaging Sportsmen’s Act, Hope for a 2012 Farm Bill

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Thanks to ineffectiveness of the U.S. Congress, storm clouds continue to gather over bird hunters’ future ability to put a bird in their game vest.

I’ve spent the majority of the week in Washington, D.C. working on a variety of our conservation priorities; including the Sportsmen’s Act, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and of course the federal Farm Bill.

A few weeks ago, I watched an episode of the television news program 60 minutes focused on our political leaders’ desire to return to the statesmanship and bi-partisan cooperation of a bi-gone era.   I watched those Senators on camera and felt a renewed sense of hope.  This week’s visit to our nation’s capital made it clear those intentions were nothing more than a political façade.

Sportsman’s Act

This bill is an incredible compilation of hunter’s favorites in need of Congressional action.  It contains habitat programs like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Fish & Wildlife Service’s Partners Program, and a host of other policies that would provide wildlife habitat and public hunting access.

Leading up to this week’s debate, the bill enjoyed the support of virtually every single hunting and wildlife conservation organization in the country; organizations representing millions of Americans.  The measure garnered strong bi-partisan support during early procedural votes to move the measure forward through Congress.  Yet, in the final hours, one single Senator raising a budget point of order brought the entire package down leaving it smoldering like a burned South Dakota cattail slough.

The point of order Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions raised focused on an increase to the price of the Federal Duck Stamp – a measure we support along with our friends at Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl.  The federal duck stamp has been an incredibly successful program in place since the ‘30’s and is desperately in need of additional revenues to keep pace with skyrocketing land prices.  The proposed increase in revenues from the wallets of willing waterfowlers and wetlands enthusiasts provided the ridiculously miniscule technicality allowing Senator Sessions to derail the entire bill.  Last minute attempts to resolve the  revenue issue by Senator Jon Tester working across the aisle with others including Senator John Thune using Thune’s sodsaver provision savings proved too little too late.  Even with resolution at this point Senator Boxer was prepared to intervene as well – all of this coming after nearly unanimous votes of 84 and 92 supporting passage.

 

Farm Bill

Several of our favorite Farm bill conservation programs remain closed to enrollment, pending action by Congress as well.  Leadership from both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees continue to press for pathways to complete action on the full five-year bill that has passed the full Senate and House Committee.  Several options remain possible including attaching the measure to end of the year legislation related to the fiscal cliff or extension of existing law for a shorter term.  House leadership offices have indicated that the measure will be acted upon in some fashion.

Take Action

Call on your elected Representative and both of your Senators right now.  Tell them to get it done on the Sportsmen’s Act, tell them to get it done on a comprehensive five-year farm bill, and most of all tell them to get it done on the fiscal cliff.  It’s time to forgo actions based upon an R or D behind names and to act together as Americans.  Help us urge Congress to expedite actions before the lame duck session ends.

Conservation’s Black Monday

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Last Saturday, I attended the Rally for Iowa’s Outdoor Legacy held in Des Moines.  The event was designed to promote awareness for the importance of wildlife conservation in the midst of the highly charged agricultural production environment we’re living through these days.  After all, outdoor recreation including hunting and fishing, are a big part of the quality of life in Iowa and across rural America.

Speaker Shane Mahoney, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Pheasants Forever’s Dave Nomsen at this weekend’s Rally for Iowa’s Outdoor Legacy

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack spoke at the luncheon.  As part of his address, Secretary Vilsack announced the state-specific reallocations of 400,000 acres for the Conservation Reserve Program’s wildlife-targeting SAFE (State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement) practice.  In fact, 50,000 of those acres were allocated to Iowa.

Unfortunately, this reallocation comes with one enormous asterisk*.  As of today, October 1st, all new CRP and WRP enrollments have ground to a halt because of the U.S. House of Representative’s failure to act on a Farm Bill this year.

According to Wikipedia, Black Monday in the world of finance refers to Monday October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed, shedding a huge value in a very short time.  In the world of wildlife conservation, October 1, 2012 can equally be referenced as Black Monday.  As of midnight last night, the 2008 Farm Bill officially ended.  Beginning today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ability to enroll landowners in new CRP or new WRP contracts has been paralyzed.   Additionally, 6.5 Million acres of Conservation Reserve Program lands expired last night.  Again, there are no current options for re-enrollment or sign-up in alternative programs. Our elected officials have failed.  It’s plain, simple and infuriating.

Photos like this will be common as a result of the U.S. House of Representatives failures in 2012

That’s where you come in.  Before you head afield in the coming weeks, please check your own U.S. Rep’s position on the Farm Bill.  Your turn to make your voice for conservation heard comes in a month when we all exercise our right to vote.  Make your vote count for conservation this November 6th.  Thanks for your help and good hunting.

Mark you calendar to VOTE on Tuesday, November 6th

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

SODSAVER: Prairie Grasslands Get Needed Support

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

One of the final additions to the U.S. Senate’s 2012 Farm Bill language was the inclusion of the John Thune (R-S.D.) & Mike Johanns (R- NE) amendment to limit insurance on newly converted croplands.  The provisions commonly known as “Sodsaver” are a strong addition to the Senate’s conservation title and were included with bipartisan support as the Farm Bill worked its way through the Senate Agriculture Committee.

 

U.S. Representative Tim Walz and PF's Dave Nomsen after recent D.C. hearing where Nomsen testified in support of Sodsaver provisions and other conservation programs.

A few minutes ago, a companion House of Representatives “Sodsaver” bill, called the Protect our Prairies Act, was introduced by Representatives Kristi Noem (R- S.D.) and Tim Walz (D- MN).  This bi-partisan leadership is exactly the type of action we need to strengthen a conservation title that will likely reduce overall federal funding for many of our existing conservation programs.  Strategically focused federal policy can go a long way in support of wildlife and conservation priorities despite funding reductions, and in this case will help provide critically needed support for existing native prairie habitats.  An added plus is this “Sodsaver” provision actually SAVES nearly $200 million in federal spending.

 

However, at this stage of the bill, it’s simply a proposal.  To ensure this policy reaches the final 2012 Farm Bill and ultimately hits the ground for habitat, please consider helping me do two things.  1) Thank Representatives Noem and Walz for their leadership, AND 2) ask your U.S. House Representative to join them in co-sponsorship of the Protect our Prairies Act.

 

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem (center) after a day hunting with family in South Dakota.

 

The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.

Pheasants Forever’s Top Five 2012 Farm Bill Priorities

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

Congressman Tim Walz, left, and Pheasants Forever's Dave Nomsen.

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 FundingWRP 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.