By Hal Herring
We got a close haircut with a pair of sheep shears, our shiny boots and new blue jeans are gone, but we can still dance pretty well.
The Senate has passed a version of the Farm Bill that, in a time of crushing deficit, hunters and fishermen can at least live with. Conservation programs took a hit, losing $6 billion in funding. You say “Farm Bill” to most people and you’ll see their eyelids slowly start to close. But whether we recognize it or not, what’s in the Farm Bill, and what gets funded or cut, is of vital importance to hunting and fishing. A lot of what is there makes up the backbone of what we know as American conservation.
One of the hardest losses was the reduction in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) from 32 million acres to a cap of 25 million. That’s a tough one for bird and waterfowl hunters, especially in the Midwest, where high prices for corn and other grains are encouraging farmers to bring land into production that for the past few decades might have been important nesting and security cover, not to mention places for us to hunt. There are currently 29 million acres enrolled in CRP, so we are looking at a loss of at least 4 million acres, maybe more since crop prices, driven up by the ethanol subsidies and 7 billion very hungry human beings, are expected to remain at record highs and CRP is, of course, a voluntary program--if you can make more money farming your ground than enrolling it in CRP, you farm it.