Friday, July 13, 2012
House Progresses on Farm Bill; Sportsmen Urge Continued Swift Action
WASHINGTON - The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its sportsmen partners today offered praise to U.S. House of Representatives leaders for expediting passage of the new Farm Bill while, at the same time, continued to advocate conservation measures in the sprawling legislation important to hunters and anglers.
The House Agriculture Committee last night completed markup of its version of the bill, whose conservation title, while considerably restructured, nevertheless represents the largest federal investment in agricultural and private lands conservation in the nation. The bill now moves on to consideration by the full House.
"On behalf of America's sportsmen, the TRCP thanks members of the House Agriculture Committee, including Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson, for forging a strong Farm Bill capable of sustaining millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat, along with the hunting and fishing opportunities they provide," said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands.
Kline called the conservation title of the House bill "an achievement in the face of daunting economic circumstances."
"Despite budget constraints imposed on the committee, the bill's conservation title supports a range of programs reflective of sportsmen's values," Kline continued, "including sustaining key fish and wildlife habitat through measures such as the Agricultural Land Easement and Wetland Easement Programs and improving environmental management through working lands programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program."
The sportsmen voiced criticism, however, that an amendment expanding the so-called "sodsaver" program to the national level was not considered by the committee. While the provision is included in the draft bill, it is limited in scope to the Prairie Pothole region.
Sodsaver promotes management practices that conserve grasslands, an iconic - and threatened - American ecosystem that provides essential habitat and breeding grounds for countless species of North American ducks, as well as pheasants and deer. A Senate decision to integrate a strong Sodsaver provision in its version of the Farm Bill drew praise from sportsmen.
"Sportsmen remain committed to making the sodsaver program national in scope," said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, both TRCP partner groups. "We respectfully urge Congress to adopt this common-sense measure, which would advance conservation of our nation's remaining grassland habitat, critical to a variety of economically important wildlife."
Likewise, the sportsmen reiterated the need to re-link conservation compliance with crop insurance, ensuring that taxpayer funds support environmentally friendly farming practices and strengthen the farm safety net by focusing crop production on reliably productive acres.
"The need to re-link conservation compliance and crop insurance comes from a recognition that the health of America's soil, water, wildlife and other natural resources is essential to the productivity and economic viability of our privately owned lands," said Robert Bendick, director of U.S. government relations of TRCP partner The Nature Conservancy. "If added to the final bill, this provision could save federal dollars and should be a minimal burden to working farmers and ranchers, who implement many of these practices already."
In its current iteration, the House Farm Bill integrates more than $35 billion in reductions over 10 years - $12 billion more than a version of the bill passed last month by the Senate. The House bill's conservation title, however, is similar to the Senate version.
"Overall, the House Agriculture Committee-reported Farm Bill is not only good for working farmers and ranchers by helping them stay on their land," said Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, a TRCP partner group. "It also provides solid and significant programs and measures necessary to conserve waterfowl and other wildlife habitats - and continues to ensure our nation's rich hunting heritage, which benefits rural economies. We look forward to continuing to work with the Agriculture Committee leadership as the bill moves to the House floor."
"The House Agriculture Committee exercised creativity and a bipartisan spirit in producing a results-oriented conservation title despite funding reductions that inescapably affect the delivery of conservation," said James L. Cummins, executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, also a TRCP partner. "Yet any celebration is premature. As budgets continue to tighten, Congress must commit to passing a strong, conservation-minded Farm Bill before the end of 2012."
Learn more about the TRCP's private and agricultural lands work.
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.