Friday, April 27, 2012

TRCP Praises Farm Bill

WASHINGTON - As the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee finalizes its version of the 2012 Farm Bill, which sustains millions of acres of valuable private lands fish and wildlife habitat, prominent sportsmen's groups urged swift action by the full Congress to expedite passage of this key legislation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today.

Members of the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group, which advocates on behalf of sensible and successful farm conservation programs, offered praise to Senate decision makers for their efforts to maintain hunting and angling opportunities relied upon by sportsmen across the nation.

"These are trying times for private lands conservation funding, but thanks to the leadership of Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Pat Roberts, the Senate Farm Bill makes the most of limited dollars," said Steve Kline, director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands. "By strengthening programs through sound policy, the Senate Farm Bill makes the conservation title more efficient and more user friendly, a victory for responsible resources management. American sportsmen commend the Senate Agriculture Committee for producing the best possible Farm Bill under circumstances that are challenging at best."

Jennifer Mock Schaeffer, Farm Bill coordinator for the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and AWWG chair, affirmed that overall the Senate Committee maintains the functions of the Farm Bill's conservation title, although many of the program names have changed and funds have been reallocated accordingly.

"The Senate Agriculture Committee worked admirably at making the most of a very unfortunate national budget situation," said Mock Schaeffer. "We sincerely appreciate Chairwoman Stabenow's and Senator Roberts' commitment to continue funding for conservation programs at reasonable levels - and their acknowledgement that conservation is a significant component of working agriculture.

"As budgets grow even tighter in the months to come, Congress must work together to pass a Farm Bill before the end of 2012," continued Mock Schaeffer. "As the Senate Agriculture Committee concludes its process by reporting a bill to the floor, we look forward to working with both the full Senate and the House to prioritize passage of the Farm Bill."

Especially important in the Senate's effort was the inclusion of a strong Sodsaver provision. Initially proposed as an amendment by Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the provision was adopted in the underlying bill by committee leadership prior to the markup.

Sodsaver promotes land management practices that facilitate the conservation of native grasslands. The program is important to fish and wildlife and valued by sportsmen. The committee's action on this critical issue drew loud praise from the TRCP and its partners.

"America's grasslands provide essential habitat for fish and wildlife and afford opportunities for outdoor recreation of all kinds," said Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited, an AWWG member. "But grasslands are also one of our more threatened ecosystems. Sodsaver presents Congress with a rare opportunity to save taxpayer money, protect an iconic American landscape and preserve the ability of farmers and ranchers to manage their lands as they see fit. We are thrilled that committee leadership recognized the importance of Senator Thune's amendment and included it in the chairwoman's mark."

"With Senate deliberations on the Farm Bill continuing and the House beginning hearings on the bill, now is the time for our elected leaders to work together toward swift passage of this critical piece of legislation," said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, AWWG members. "Farm Bill conservation programs are critical tothe more than $95 billion in economic activity annually contributed by hunting and angling, and Congress must strive to keep them operating as efficiently as possible."