Posts Tagged ‘Sodsaver’
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.
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.
Thursday, December 6th, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The D.C. Minute is written by Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever’s Vice President of Government Relations.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Pheasants Forever and other hunting, fishing and conservation groups have signed on to a letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee’s key officials in support of a strong “Sodsaver” provision in the next Farm Bill.
In the letter, signed alongside approximately 30 other groups, including the American Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Pheasants Forever urges House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (OK) and ranking member Collin Peterson (MN) to adopt the Farm Bill’s Sodsaver provision to promote “responsible stewardship of agricultural land and direct program benefits to acreage that is most suited for crop production.”
Since 1985, Sodsaver has protected native grasslands and upland covers by stripping away federal subsidies for landowners who would farm them. While these lands represent important nesting areas for pheasants, ducks and other grassland birds – and more than 97 percent of the native grasslands of the U.S. have already been lost – there is increasing pressure from farm advocacy groups to weaken or remove the provision.
Strengthened Sodsaver, or Non-cropland Conversion Provisions, are a top priority for Pheasants Forever during the current Farm Bill debate. Stronger provisions would help conserve one of America’s most iconic and threatened ecosystems: our native grasslands, and would save taxpayer dollars and conserve critical habitat while maintaining farmers’ abilities to manage their lands as they see fit.
The Senate farm bill approved by the bipartisan Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on April 26 includes a Sodsaver provision sponsored by Senators John Thune (SD) and Mike Johanns (NE). The House is expected to examine Sodsaver after the Memorial Day weekend. Pheasants Forever and its conservation partners have been meeting with policy makers on the House Agriculture Committee on the importance of this provision and Pheasants Forever’s wildlife habitat conservation mission.
Thursday, April 26th, 2012
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.