Posts Tagged ‘Conservation Reserve Program’

Farm Bill Headed to President’s Desk Thanks to Senate Passage

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

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After being passed by the House last week, today the Senate approved the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill. The legislation is now headed to President Obama’s desk.

If signed into law by the president, the bill would:

  • Reauthorize the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), including a change to the program that will allow for the enrollment of up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
  • Re-link conservation compliance to crop insurance, deterring wetland drainage.
  • Create a regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies where it is most threatened – South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
  • Approve $40 million in funding for Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Programs (VPA-HIP). Commonly referred to as “Open Fields,” this funding would improve sportsmen’s access while helping improve wildlife conservation efforts.
  • Allocate more than $1 billion allocated for a new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.
  • Consolidate U.S. Department of Agriculture programs from 23 to 13, improving delivery of these programs to interested landowners.

Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever urge the president to sign the bill, and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.

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

U.S. House Passes Farm Bill

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

The Farm Bill provides critical conservation tools to America's farmers, ranchers and conservationists.

The farm bill provides critical conservation tools to America’s farmers, ranchers and conservationists.

A few minutes ago, by a vote of 251 to 166 the United States House of Representatives passed the Agricultural Act of 2014, commonly known as the farm bill.  The bill now awaits Senate action.  All indications are the Senate will act on the bill shortly.

The farm bill, if signed into law, will make substantial changes to conservation policies and programs.  Included are needed policy changes to conservation compliance and provisions to protect native prairies from conversion in six states (N.D., S.D., Minn., Iowa, Neb., Mont.).  U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are consolidated from 23 to 13.  Included is re-authorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at 24 million acres, a new agricultural conservation easement program, and working lands conservation programs. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are in support of the passage of this farm bill and look forward to using these new tools to create wildlife habitat.

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

Farm Bill Agreement Reached, Awaits House Vote

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

After a long two years of debate, a new Farm Bill appears to be on the horizon.

After a long two years of debate, a new Farm Bill appears to be on the horizon.

Yesterday, the long-anticipated farm bill showed signs of life as House and Senate conferees reached a bipartisan agreement to move the bill forward.  In fact, the House may have a vote on the farm bill by the end of Wednesday.  After clearing the House, the bill will move to the Senate.

The bill addresses Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s top grassland and wildlife priorities including the following:

  • Conservation compliance connected to crop insurance.
  • A regional “Sodsaver” to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies.  States included are South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska.  We are pleased to have these important tools to protect America’s last remaining virgin prairies available in these critical pheasant states right away.
  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  While the total authorization of acres will gradually decrease to 24 million acres by FY18, we do have some new tools included to help us target the most environmentally sensitive acres that will best produce water, soil and wildlife benefits.  In fact, one particular change to CRP will allow us to enroll up to 2 million grassland acres with no cropping history that have never been eligible for CRP enrollment historically.
  • $40 million in funding for voluntary public hunting access programs (VPA-HIP).
  • A new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program including provisions targeting wetlands and grasslands.

It’s been an arduous two year road to get us to this point.  I won’t pretend this Farm Bill is going to be perfect by anyone’s standards; however, it does address our core conservation concerns.  The danger in not passing a farm bill at this point would be catastrophic for wildlife and water quality as all our favorite conservation programs, like CRP, would be shut down for the foreseeable future. Given the current state of habitat loss, our nation’s wildlife cannot withstand additional time without access to conservation programs.  Let’s get this farm bill passed and begin working on returning habitat back to the landscape this spring.

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

ACTION ALERT: Finish the Farm Bill

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

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Yesterday, Farm Bill conferees met for the first time to craft the final version of the Farm Bill that will go before the full Congress for a vote.  This has been a process that has taken more than two years, so it’s critical all bird hunters contact the conferees listed below urging final passage of a Farm Bill immediately.  Failure to pass a Farm Bill by year’s end would be devastating to wildlife and hunter access.

 

“If a Farm Bill doesn’t pass by year’s end critical programs like CRP and WRP will remain unavailable,” explained Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s vice president of government affairs.

 

Nomsen continued, “we saw the power of our collective voice as hunters earlier this month when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service re-opened Waterfowl Production Areas during the government shutdown.  Today, it’s even more critical for all of us to raise those voices.  The future of our hunting heritage hangs in the balance.  It may seem like I’m over-stating the severity of the situation, but I am not.  This is zero-hour for pheasants, quail, ducks, deer, turkeys, America’s water quality and hunter access.”

 

The following components are critical to Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s support of a new Farm Bill:

  • Conservation Compliance connected to crop insurance
  • National Sodsaver to protect our country’s last remaining native prairies
  • A Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with a minimum 25 million acre baseline
  • A 5-year Farm Bill

The list below is the full roster of Farm Bill conferees.  If you live within the districts of these individuals, it’s imperative they hear your voice as a hunter and conservationist urging for strong conservation policy in a new Farm Bill.  Follow this link to Contact your elected officials. Thank you for standing up for America’s sportsmen and women!

  Farm Bill Conferees

  Senate Republicans:
  Ranking Member Thad Cochran, R-Miss.
  Pat Roberts, R-Kan.
  Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
  John Boozman, R-Ark.
  John Hoeven, R-N.D.
  Senate Democrats:
  Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
  Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
  Tom Harkin, D-Iowa
  Max Baucus, D-Mont.
  Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio
  Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.
  Michael Bennet, D-Colo.
  House Republicans:
  Frank Lucas/Chair, R-Okla.
  Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas
  Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
  Mike Conaway, R-Texas
  Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.
  Austin Scott, R-Ga.
  Rick Crawford, R-Ark.
  Martha Roby, R-Ala.
  Kristi Noem, R-S.D.
  Jeff Denham, R-Calif.
  Rodney Davis, R-Ill.
  Steve Southerland, R-Fla.
  Ed Royce, R-Calif.
  Tom Marino, R-Pa.
  Dave Camp, R-Mich.
  Sam Johnson, R-Texas
  House Democrats:
  Collin Peterson/Ranking Member, D-Minn.
  Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio –Appointed by Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, to represent leadership in conference
  Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.
  Jim Costa, D-Calif.
  Timothy Walz, D-Minn.
  Kurt Shcrader, D-Ore.
  Jim McGovern, D-Mass.
  Suzan DelBene, D-Wash.
  Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Calif.
  Filemon Vela, D-Texas
  Eliot Engel, D-N.Y.
  Sander Levin, D-Mich.

Farm Bill Extension Expires, PF Presses Congress to Act

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Until national native prairie, or "Sodsaver," provisions are enacted, native grasslands will continue to be susceptible to conversion.

Until national native prairie, or “Sodsaver,” provisions are enacted, native grasslands will continue to be susceptible to conversion. Photo by Matt Morlock / Pheasants Forever

Editor’s Note: Pheasants Forever along with Ducks Unlimited and the National Wild Turkey Federation sent the following letter to President Barack Obama and Congressional leadership.

The Farm Bill extension has expired and, along with it, vital conservation programs will unfortunately be closed for enrollment. As the leaders of Ducks Unlimited, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, we respectfully urge you to pass a comprehensive five-year Farm Bill as soon as possible. Consumers may not feel the full consequences of a lapsed farm bill before January, but conservation felt it immediately.

Farm Bill conservation programs like the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program are now closed for enrollment. These are the most effective tools farmers and ranchers have to conserve bird and other wildlife habitat on private lands, and they will no longer be available without an enacted Farm Bill. This habitat also contributes environmental services to our citizens in the form of flood abatement, soil erosion abatement and clean water.

From 2006 to 2011, 1.3 million acres of native grassland were converted to cropland in the Great Plains, most of which occurred in heart of the duck factory. This is a rate of land conversion our country hasn’t seen since the Dust Bowl. It is not only vital for the birds our organizations work to protect that these lands are conserved and restored, it is vital to our country’s citizens. We could be recreating the dust storms of the 1930s without the conservation programs in the Farm Bill that encourage private landowners to maintain the grasses and prairie habitat that prevent erosion.

Outdoor recreation, including hunting and bird watching, contributes $646 billion to the U.S. economy each year. The industry also creates 6.1 million American jobs – more than the oil and gas, finance or real estate sectors. These jobs cannot be exported and fuel rural, local and our national economies. Conservation measures in the Senate Farm Bill, like re-coupling conservation compliance to crop insurance and a national Sodsaver program, are critical to ensuring this positive economic impact continues.

On behalf of our more than 1.5 million members and supporters, we ask that you use your leadership to expeditiously pass and enact a comprehensive five-year Farm Bill with a robust conservation title that includes re-coupling compliance to crop insurance and a national Sodsaver program.

Thank you for your consideration of our perspectives.

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

Update: Farm Bill Fails in House

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Anthony Hauck / Pheasants Forever

Yesterday, the House of Representatives failed to pass Farm Bill legislation critical to the future of so many conservation programs, as well as new conservation policies.

While Pheasants Forever is currently assessing options available, it is clear that conservation interests are best served by maintaining a strong suite of programs like the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Natural Resource’s Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and many others. Conservation policies like conservation compliance tied to crop insurance, as well as provisions helping protect native prairies, are critical components of whatever final package makes its way through Congress. We certainly urge all members of the House of Representatives to find the pathway that makes this possible.

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

Farm Bill Clears Senate as September 30th Deadline Looms

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Pheasants Forever members and staff recently talked conservation policy with elected officials in Washington, D.C.  (l to r) PF staffer Tom Fuller, PF member Daryl Landsgard of Saint Olaf, Iowa, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, and PF member  Bob Puetz of LeMars, Iowa

Pheasants Forever members and staff recently talked conservation policy with elected officials in Washington, D.C. (Pictured l to r) PF staffer Tom Fuller; PF member Daryl Landsgard of Saint Olaf, Iowa; Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa; and PF member Bob Puetz of LeMars, Iowa (PHOTO BY REHAN NANA)

I am pleased to report the United States Senate passed their version of the 2013 Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27 on Monday.  This bill would establish U.S. agricultural policy for the next five years.  Included in the Senate’s bill were:

 

  • Reauthorization of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
  • Reauthorization of the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
  • Reauthorization of the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP)
  • A conservation compliance provision re-linking crop insurance premium support to certain conservation practices.
  • A national “Sodsaver” program helping to safeguard native prairies.

 

The Senate’s version of the Farm Bill is good policy for landowners, hunters and conservationists.  Unfortunately, there are a number of steps remaining before this policy can take effect for the benefit of farmers and wildlife.

 

The next step is for the U.S. House of Representatives to take up the Farm Bill on the full House floor.  This step, as you may recall, is exactly where last year’s attempt to push the Farm Bill to completion died on the vine.  Based on the discussion coming out of the House this session, I’m optimistic the Farm Bill will reach the House floor as early as next week.  The House and the Senate titles are relatively similar with the exception of two important policy provisions.  The House’s current bill lacks the conservation compliance connection to crop insurance and has a regional version of “Sodsaver” rather than the national version.  We’re going to continue to work toward influencing the House to include those two important provisions.

 

Consequently, we are asking all Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever members to be on alert as we monitor Farm Bill debate in the House in the coming weeks.  There will likely be a time in the coming days when we sound the alarm and ask all members and hunters to contact their U.S. Representative with a key message about our position on conservation.

 

Unfortunately, there are still three more steps for a new Farm Bill after passage of a bill in the House.  The first of those steps would be a conferencing of the Senate and House Farm Bills together to rectify differences between the two bodies.  Second, the conferenced bill would have to be approved by a full Congressional vote.  And finally, the final bill would have to be signed by the President.

 

Obviously, that’s a lot of steps and the 2008 Farm Bill expires on September 30th.  Congress needs to push this 2013 Farm Bill across the finish line before that deadline is met.  And, another extension to the 2008 Farm Bill would irreversibly change the face of private lands conservation threatening the existence of conservation programs that landowners and hunters have relied on for decades.

 

Stay tuned.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Action Alert: Your Senator Needs to Hear from Pheasant Hunters This Morning

Monday, May 20th, 2013

Your voice as a pheasant hunter is needed this morning.

Your voice as a pheasant hunter is needed this morning.

Years of positioning and political posturing is finally coming to a head in Washington, D.C. today.  The future of every pheasant hunter and pheasant hunter’s grandchild is being debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate this morning.Earlier this month, Pheasants Forever joined fellow conservation organizations along with farm groups in a historical coalition supporting crop insurance’s connection to conservation compliance.  Today . . . THIS MORNING . . . it’s critical that your state’s two U.S. Senators hear the following from every Pheasants Forever member as the Farm Bill is debated on the Senate floor:

  1. You support the conservation compliance tied crop insurance deal Pheasants Forever agreed to without amendments to weaken it.
  2. You support Sodsaver policy to protect America’s last remaining native prairies, which are critical to you as an American bird hunter.
  3. You support a strong Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is critical to water quality, wildlife habitat, healthy soil, rural economies, outdoor recreation and America’s hunting heritage.

No matter what’s on your day’s list of “To Do’s,” please put this at the top.  Our ability to chase roosters behind good bird dogs under autumn skies depends on your emails and phone calls today.  Your two U.S. Senators absolutely need to hear from you today.

Your Senator’s contact info is available at www.senate.gov or leave phone messages by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202.224.3121.

Your voice will make a difference.  Current and future generations of sportsmen and sportswomen depend on you this morning.  Thanks for your help.

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

Pheasants Forever Outlines Top Conservation Priorities for 2013

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Because nothing impacts pheasant and quail populations like the management of the nation’s agricultural lands, Pheasants Forever has set its priorities for working with Congress in 2013 on new federal Farm Bill legislation. Pheasants Forever is pushing to strengthen the Conservation Reserve Program and to remove the safety net for landowners who plow under wetlands and native prairie.

The year 2012 will be remembered as a bleak one for conservation, but it’s a new year and we must make new conservation resolutions. The conservation title of the Farm Bill remains the single largest source of federal funding for conservation on private lands in the country, and our organization sees a great deal of opportunity to create policies that benefit landowners as well as wildlife. PF’s top conservation priorities this year include:

5-Year Farm Bill with Strong Conservation Provisions

At the end of 2012, Congress passed a nine-month extension of the current Farm Bill, leaving too much instability in rural America and for the country’s wildlife habitat resources. The current extension jeopardizes many of the bill’s key conservation programs, and if a full Farm Bill fails to pass by this October, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP) and other key conservation programs will lose billions in conservation funding.

Restore Competitiveness of CRP

The Conservation Reserve Program remains the workhorse of America’s conservation policy, and Pheasants Forever believes the program can continue to succeed in harmony with agriculture, but only if it becomes more economically viable to producers in light of higher modern commodity prices. We need to put the value of wildlife habitat on more equal footing with the value of cash crops, as the payoffs in protecting these toughest-to-farm acres are stable incomes for producers, as well as wildlife, water and soil benefits for us all.

Linking Crop Insurance and Conservation

Pheasants, quail and other wildlife face risks every day, but the risks to farmers who convert wetlands and remnant native prairie to cropland have been eliminated through (largely) taxpayer subsidized crop insurance. Pheasants Forever supports re-linking conservation compliance so Swampbuster (wetlands) and Sodsaver (Protect Our Prairies Act) provisions are imposed to provide the public with environmental benefits. This past autumn, the Prairie Pothole Region was ablaze with dry wetlands and cattail marshes being burned off in record numbers. These were important winter cover areas for pheasants. If taxpayers are going to continue to support crop insurance payments, then clean air, water, soil and wildlife habitat should be a minimum return on our investment.

Photo by Pete Berthelsen / Pheasants Forever

Pheasant Nesting Cover through Pollinator Habitat

Pollinators not only play a critical role in bringing food to the table, but they also provide important ecosystem support, including pheasant and quail nesting and brood habitat – pheasants and quail share a common need for habitat containing flowering plants. Pheasants Forever assigned one of its senior leaders, Nebraskan Pete Berthelsen, into a new position to leverage concerns around declining pollinator populations to advance the wildlife habitat mission of Pheasants Forever. Berthelsen has helped secure many of the pollinator planting guidelines present in Conservation Reserve Program practices across the United States, and he successfully worked to make pollinator habitat a part of many other federal Farm Bill conservation programs.

Permanent Wildlife Habitat Protections

As land values have skyrocketed, the window of opportunity to permanently protect lands as wildlife habitat continues to narrow, accelerating the need for land acquisitions and permanent conservation easements. Pheasants Forever has assigned another member of its senior leadership team, Minnesotan Matt Holland, to serve as a national resource to aggressively utilize and seek out funding opportunities for permanent wildlife habitat protection.

Voluntary Public Access Programs for Sportsmen and Sportswomen

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.

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