Conservation groups request farm bill urgency

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2012- The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, along with 42 other conservation organizations, asked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a letter Tuesday to pass a new five-year farm bill “with the best conservation measures possible” or to pass an extension that maintains full conservation funding for the current fiscal year.

Currently, the Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program and several other farm bill conservation programs are expired, stated NSAC. Their fiscal year 2013 funding authority expired on October 1 and no new enrollments are currently possible. Also, farmers typically sign up for programs in the off-season late fall and winter months.  

“The clock is ticking,” stated NSAC Policy Director Ferd Hoefner in a release today. “With the elections over, Congress needs to get its job done, one way or the other, and bring all the farm conservation programs back to life before adjourning their lame duck session.  The conservation needs and farmer demand for the programs are stronger than ever.  The only remaining question is whether Congress will be resolute in fixing the problems its previous delay and inaction have created.”

The letter to Speaker Boehner is signed by 43 conservation organizations in order to urge reauthorization of several conservation programs. 

“When the Farm Bill expired in September, it had consequences,” states the letter. “No new enrollments are possible in the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative.”

The letter also asks that should an extension of the old bill become necessary, “then we urge you to extend all conservation programs in a manner that allows for 2013 enrollments without any further delay or interruption.”

The entire letter is below:

November 12, 2012

The Honorable John A. Boehner Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives 1011 Longworth House Office Building Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Boehner:

The conservation programs of the Farm Bill provide critical resources to help America's farmers, ranchers and forest landowners protect and enhance the natural resource base on which our collective food security depends. These resources are in jeopardy.

When the Farm Bill expired in September, it had consequences. No new enrollments are possible in the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, Grassland Reserve Program, and Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative. The enrollment authorities for these programs have expired, and because a new five-year farm bill has not yet been enacted, the changes made to these programs by both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee to preserve program functions while consolidating and streamlining program delivery have not yet taken effect. In addition, the Continuing Resolution created a technical problem that means no new enrollment is possible in the Conservation Stewardship Program in FY 13.

If these programs are not reauthorized soon, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who are willing to share the cost of providing the public with cleaner water, opportunities for outdoor recreation and other important benefits will continue to be turned away and critical conservation needs will remain unmet. This could be particularly damaging in light of last year's floods and this year's devastating drought, which have underscored the importance of good conservation practices to increasing the resilience of the land in the face of extreme weather events and supporting and enhancing agricultural productivity over the long term.

We strongly urge you to build on the hard work already done by both the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee and complete a full five-year Farm Bill this year -- one that, among other things, sustains the effectiveness of the Conservation Title of the bill in continuing what is a longstanding and successful partnership between the federal government and America's farmers and ranchers to protect our nation's exceptional soil, water and wildlife resources. We believe a bill that takes on the best conservation provisions from the Senate-passed and House Committee-passed bills is quite possible to achieve even in the limited amount of time left in this session of Congress. The Senate and the House Agriculture Committee clearly agree on the value of the Conservation Title since their versions of the bill are substantially the same and have received strong bi-partisan support.

Should an extension of the old bill become necessary, however, then we urge you to extend all conservation programs in a manner that allows for 2013 enrollments without any further delay or interruption. The extension should include the technical fix to allow for the 2013 CSP enrollment. In addition, conservation funding must not be cut to pay for disaster assistance or other pieces of an extension bill requiring offsets. Cutting conservation to pay for disaster aid is extremely shortsighted, limiting the very activities that will reduce the impact of future droughts and floods by building greater resiliency into farming operations.

Thank you for consideration of these important issues. Sincerely,

American Farmland Trust

American Rivers

American Society of Agronomy

American Society of Landscape Architects 

Austin Chapter Izaak Walton League of America

Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis Audubon Minnesota

Bat Conservation International 

Central Minnesota Audubon Society 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Clean Water Network

Crop Science Society of America 

Environmental Defense Fund 

Environmental and Energy Study Institute 

Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest

Iowa Environmental Council

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

Izaak Walton League of America

Jaques Chapter Izaak Walton League of America

Kentucky Waterways Alliance

Land Stewardship Project

Land Trust Alliance

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy

Minnesota Division, Izaak Walton League of America

Minnesota River Valley Audubon Chapter 

Missouri Coalition for the Environment 

National Association of Clean Water Agencies 

National Association of Conservation Districts

National Audubon Society

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 

National Wildlife Federation

Pollinator Partnership

Prairie Rivers Network

Prairie Woods Chapter 

Izaak Walton League of America

Saint Paul Audubon Society

Soil Science Society of America

Soil and Water Conservation Society 

Tennessee Clean Water Network

The Trust for Public Land

Union of Concerned Scientists

US Composting Council

W.J. McCabe Chapter Izaak Walton League of America

Zumbro Valley Audubon Society 

cc:
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi

The Honorable Frank D. Lucas 

The Honorable Colin C. Peterson


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