Posts Tagged ‘Farm Bill’

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.

Sodsaver Provision Must Be National, Not Regional

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Photo courtesy Mark Lehigh / Flickr Creative Commons

Pheasants and other grassland-dwelling birds would benefit from a national sodsaver provision. Photo courtesy Mark Lehigh / Flickr Creative Commons

Editor’s Note: Pheasants Forever joined other conservation groups in sending the following letter to Congressional and Senate and House Ag Committee leadership.

Dear Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Pelosi, Chairman Lucas, Chairwoman Stabenow, Ranking Member Peterson, and Ranking Member Cochran:

As the House and Senate begin conferencing the 2013 Farm Bill, the undersigned groups, representing millions of producers, sportsmen and women and other conservationists, and wildlife scientists ask that you complete a conference report with strong conservation provisions and urge you to pass a five-year Farm Bill as soon as possible. Our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and landowners deserve to have long-term certainty to effectively and efficiently manage their land, resources and businesses for the years ahead. This important legislation supports our nation’s farmers, ranchers, forest owners, food security, natural resources and wildlife habitats, rural communities, and the 16 million Americans whose jobs directly depend on the agriculture industry as well as our $145 billion wildlife recreation economy.

We specifically endorse a strong Title II in the Farm Bill. The farm bill represents the single largest federal investment in private-lands conservation. It funds programs that improve air and water quality, recharge groundwater aquifers, and create fish and wildlife habitat; thereby providing meaningful benefits to all Americans and taxpayers. Not only do Farm Bill conservation programs play a key role in supporting clean air, clean water and productive soils, they also help producers avoid unnecessary regulation and promote our nation’s long-term economic and food security.

We strongly support the Senate’s national sodsaver provision to reduce incentives for grassland conversion, while still allowing landowners to make their own management decisions. Sodsaver would help preserve our remaining prairies and significant grasslands for both the ranching communities and wildlife that depend on them, and save taxpayers nearly $200 million over a 10 year period. While the House Farm Bill currently includes a regional sodsaver provision, we believe that only a national policy, such as included in the Senate bill, would be effective.

We also strongly support re-linking conservation compliance to crop insurance premium assistance and oppose efforts to weaken conservation compliance in current law. For decades, in exchange for a publicly funded safety net, farmers have adopted land management practices that successfully reduced soil erosion and protected wetlands. Recoupling will ensure that decades of conservation gains are not lost. As federal crop insurance emerges as the central part of the farm safety net, we also oppose any provisions that provide for means testing, reduce premium assistance, or impose payment limitations on crop insurance premium assistance or indemnities. We believe that including these priorities in a 2013 Farm Bill will result in an effective farm and natural resource safety net.

Furthermore, we are concerned that if the 2013 Farm Bill’s Title I is made permanent, reauthorization of other important programs will be at risk if the bill expires after five years. If this should occur and we revert to “permanent” law, then programs covering conservation, forestry, research, energy, rural development, and horticulture could be left to the will of the appropriations process, likely with limited funding and little opportunity to address policy changes. We request equal treatment of the titles.

Thank you very much for your attention to these pressing conservation issues, and our overall request is that you complete the 2013 Farm Bill this year.

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

The Farm Bill Heads to Conference Committee

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Roger Hill

Pheasant habitat and pheasant hunting depend on a conservation-friendly Farm Bill. Photo by Roger Hill

“What is going on with the Farm Bill?” is the question filling up my inbox and voicemail.  It’s been more of a challenge to answer that inquiry in recent weeks than at any time in my career.  Frankly, it looks like the answer will remain murky for the foreseeable future.  Here’s what I can tell you:

Farm Bill Clears House

You may recall the 2012 Farm Bill died without ever reaching the full House floor for a vote.  Last month, the 2013 Farm Bill made it to the House floor only to be surprisingly defeated on June 20th with very little precedent for “what happens next.”   In another unpredictable turn, the U.S. House of Representatives abruptly brought the Farm Bill back to the House floor for a vote on Thursday, July 11th.  This time round, the Farm Bill went before the House with the controversial Food Stamp legislation completely removed from the rest of the Bill, presumably to be dealt with separately at a later date.  The resulting Farm Bill passed in a “split House” vote of 216 to 208.

Now What?

So, we have a comprehensive Senate Farm Bill with a strong conservation title; including CRP funding, WRP funding, a national Sodsaver provision and a re-linking of conservation compliance to crop insurance.

On the House side, we have a Farm Bill that doesn’t mirror the same components from the Senate (i.e. Food Stamp language).  Also, the Conservation Title in the House version doesn’t include a crop insurance connection to conservation compliance.  Additionally, the Sodsaver language in the House version is regional, rather than national like the Senate’s bill, in scope.

The two incongruent Farm Bills are now on to a Senate and House conference committee with the challenging task of rectifying the differences between the two bills for a full Congressional vote.  And the clock is ticking.  The current 2012 Farm Bill extension expires on September 30th and President Obama has also promised a veto of any Farm Bill reaching his desk without Food Stamp language included.

Clear as mud?  No question.  That’s why it’s so important Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever are part of this process at every step.  We remain vigilant in our push for a new Farm Bill before the September deadline.  America’s wildlife, water resources and outdoor traditions depend upon strong federal conservation policy.  Rest assured, we are in D.C. fighting for roosters, quail, and hunters during these challenging times.

In the coming days and weeks ahead, please stay tuned to this blog and our social media outlets (Facebook & Twitter) as we will be issuing Action Alerts to help put pressure on our elected officials to vote in support of strong conservation policy.

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

Your U.S. House Representative Needs to Hear from Pheasant Hunters Today

Wednesday, June 19th, 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

As you may recall, last year’s attempt to create a new Farm Bill died in the U.S. House, having never reached the full House floor.  Today, the Farm Bill will be debated on the House floor; however, we need your help voicing support for two important conservation measures currently under debate.  To that end, we are asking all our supporters to contact their U.S. Representative today with the following message: Vote YES on final passage of a five-year Farm Bill now.

Our ability to chase roosters behind good bird dogs under autumn skies depends on your emails and phone calls TODAY.  Your Representative’s contact info is available at http://www.house.gov/htbin/findrep 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 are depending on you.  Thanks for your help.

Note: Last month, Pheasants Forever issued an Action Alert requesting our members contact U.S. Senators in support of passing the 2013 Farm Bill.  By all measures, that Action Alert generated more response than any other in our three decade history.  Thank you for taking action.  Your contacts helped to persuade the Senate to pass their Farm Bill by a vote of 66 to 27.

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