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Conservation Update: Sportsmen Need to Call to Save Farm Bill

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July 19, 2012

Conservation Update: Sportsmen Need to Call to Save Farm Bill

By Bob Marshall

Conservation groups this week are sending a desperate plea to sportsmen: Contact your House members today and urge them to bring the Farm Bill up for a vote. The desperation is born of the frustration of watching victory slowly slip away.

After months of hard work--and against some long odds--a good bill came out of the Senate last month, then a pretty good matching bill out of the House Agriculture Committee last week. But election-year theatrics could keep the most important fish and wildlife conservation legislation from making it to President Obama’s desk before the current bill expires Sept. 30.

And after that the whole year-long effort could be nullified.

“Right now the odds of getting a vote on the House floor before the August recess [typically Aug. 1 until Labor Day] doesn’t look too good,” said Steve Klein, Director of the Center for Agriculture and Private Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “And at that point we’ll be up against a very tight deadline, because the current bill expires Sept. 30, and the (congressional) calendar is very crowded."

“Frankly, we need sportsmen to contact their House members right away. We need to get this done before Sept. 30.”

If that deadline isn’t passed, the following scenarios come into play:

• Congress would have to pass an extension of the current bill, or all federal farm programs would revert back to provisions of the original 1949 bill. If that happens many key conservation measures--such as the Wetlands Reserve and Grasslands Reserve initiatives--would have to go through new authorization processes because they would cease to exist.

• Since the political consequences of a lapsed Farm Bill could be disastrous--even to those against current programs--Congress is likely to pass an extension. This happened in 2008. Indeed, insiders say some members have extension bills “waiting in their back pockets.”

“The problem with that is we won’t know exactly what’s in it,” said Klein. “It would be a pretty quick vote, and we would have to hope our programs don’t suffer too much.”

• Once the extension is passed, the fate of the currently negotiated bill would largely be determined by the outcome of the fall election. If those opposed to conservation spending became more powerful, approval of the current bill seems unlikely.

In fact, if nothing much changes in the political dynamics on Capitol Hill, most veteran conservation lobbyists see another season of bitter, hard-fought “continuing budget resolutions” with key programs like WRP, CRP and GRP limping along with uncertain futures. That isn’t to say the 2012 bill is perfect. Steep cuts were enacted in CRP in both houses that eventually will bring total acreage in the program down from the current cap of 32 million to 25 million.

But the significant change of linking compliance to conservation regulations to crop insurance subsidies made it through both houses--a move that could considerably improve the effectiveness of all conservation programs in the Farm Bill in the future.

So it’s worth saving. And worth a phone call or email.

“The best thing sportsmen can do for conservation right now is to contact their House reps and tell them they want this bill to come to a vote,” said Klein.

Wetlands Guidance Not Forthcoming

It's always hard for conservation initiatives to find many friends in Washington during an election season when the economy is slow. But it's becoming obvious this election cycle that if supporters of wetlands protections want a friend on Capitol Hill, they may have to find a dog.

That's the only way to describe the fate of the new set of rules developed by the Obama Administration more than a year ago that would restore some protection to wetlands like the prairie potholes and streamside riparian areas removed by the Supreme Court in rulings more than six years ago.

The House GOP leadership is so determined not to see them restored, it has included language in appropriations bills that would prevent federal agencies from implementing the new rules. It's not a new tactic by that group; they tried the same thing last year.

But now wetlands can't even find a friend from the people who seemed to be riding to their rescue by writing the new rules.

You see, because this is a guidance, not a law, the Obama Administration doesn't need congressional approval. Yet the measure is still languishing in its Office of Management and Budget, where sources say it will remain until after the election.

"They're being beaten over the head with the charge that regulations hurt business, so they don't want to give (Republicans) more ammunition," said one lobbyist for sportsmen's issues.

Not exactly a profile in political courage. But veterans of the environmental community in Washington say it's nothing new this election cycle. With the GOP labeling environmental regulations "job killers" it's been hard for fish, wildlife, clean air, clean water and public lands to find many heroes.

You don't have to look very far to see why Big Business swings a much bigger stick in Washington than Big Deer or Big Trout.

According to the site OpenSecrets.org, last year oil and gas spent $149 million lobbying congress; electric utilities spent $145 million, and real estate $66 million. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major opponent of the new guidance, spent $66.5 million.

Since 1998 the broader energy industry--oil, gas and utilities--spent $3.7 billion pushing their interests. By comparison, last year the Outdoor Recreation Industry said its PAC had reached $40,000. But those veteran lobbyists for sportsmen's causes say the tide can be turned if enough sportsmen contact their congress people and the president with the demand that the new guidance be released and implemented.

You can find out how at www.contactingthecongress.org and www.whitehouse.gov/contac.

Comments (11)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Where's a link to read the bill?

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Washington, D.C., July 11, 2012 — American Farmland Trust (AFT) welcomed the House Agriculture Committee 2012 farm bill mark-up that was convened this morning and congratulates Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for their progress in crafting a farm bill.RESS RELEASE

AFT President Jon Scholl strongly urged Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the finished committee bill to the floor expeditiously.

“We are pleased with the progress the House Agriculture Committee has made on the 2012 farm bill and appreciate the leadership of Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson in moving the process forward,” said AFT President Jon Scholl. “It is critical that the House complete action on the farm bill as soon as possible so that a final House-Senate compromise bill can be sent to the President to be signed into law.”

On a program level, AFT is particularly pleased that the new streamlined Agriculture Land Easement activity is built on the principles AFT recommended: keep working lands in agricultural production, rely on the use of permanent easements and work through partnerships at the local level.

Scholl noted that the Chairman’s mark did not contain a conservation compliance provision linked to crop insurance. “The Senate added a conservation compliance provision via an amendment by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) during consideration of the farm bill. This is a commonsense way to continue to protect our most vulnerable lands as the farm safety net evolves to be based more on subsidized crop insurance. We urge the House to follow suit,” said Scholl.

According to a recent survey of farmers conducted across 13 states by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies, heartland farmers believe by a nearly two-to-one margin that farmers should be required to meet some environmental standards in order to receive federal benefits such as crop insurance. The survey found that 61 percent of farmers agree with linking federal subsidies, including crop insurance, to environmental standards.

Other insights provided by the survey results include:
•Eighty-six percent of farmers say the level of conservation funding should be maintained or increased.
•Nearly 75 percent of farmers say that conservation programs help their bottom line.
•“This survey illustrates that farmers understand the importance of conservation in maintaining the productivity and viability of American agriculture in an increasingly global marketplace,” said Scholl. He urged Congress to hold the line on funding for conservation programs.

“We recognize that this farm bill faces fiscal constraints, and certainly conservation programs have not been immune to deficit reduction efforts. The proposed cuts will be difficult to absorb. It is absolutely critical for the long term productivity of American agriculture that Congress hold the line on funding for conservation provided in the Senate bill and the House Agriculture Committee’s draft,” Scholl said.

“We look forward to working with Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson as they work to complete action on this important piece of legislation. It affects the food we eat, the farmers and ranchers that grow and raise our food, the land and water on which it is grown, many sectors of our economy and the daily life of virtually every American for the next ten years,” said Scholl.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

38 republicans and 24 democrats sent letter to Majority leader John Beohner to bring to a vote. Pretty sure that is bipartisan and not just evil republicans doing what we do best(being evil that is)!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

80% of this bill goes towards food stamp program (A.K.A. SNAP) That is where the inconsitencies lie and your opportunity to bash the republicans knowing the sheeple here will believe everything you say. Not to mention the reason conservation funds are in there is because non other than a REPUBLICAN Saxby Chandliss! dundundun!!!! Doesn't fit your liberal agenda does it? You're a fraud and weasel!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Trivia Question:

What president passed the only farm bill on time in recent DECADES?

Answer to follow!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from gundogco wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Thanks for the heads up. We will tweet this article to help spread the word

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

The most enraging part of this is that the bill's opponents had the most money to spend to "lobby" Congress. So, the MERITS of any legislation have little to do with whether it gets passed or not, and everything to do with what amounts to outright bribery of our public "servants". I call them public enemies. Most of the current maggots in the House and Congress are the mortal enemies of sportsmen, no matter what lying BS they feed you. Cross their palms with silver and they would sell their mothers.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from cmrosko wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

It's certainly no secret that the GOP has showed a very strong anti-conservation / pro industrialization bent for a very very long time. It's confounding that a significant majority of sportsmen continue to support and vote such folks into office. This also also one of my main reasons for no longer being a contributing member to the NRA.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Thanks, Bob, a reminder to get on this ! Nice clear explanation of the machinations of the legislative process, and clearly the White House needs pressure on the clean water guidance. The house GOP needs to feel some pressure for being against hunting and angling interests.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

cmrosko: Even though I am a life member, I also am feeling pretty unhappy with the NRA, since as you point out they support a bunch of people that I have nothing but contempt and dislike for and who are NOT our friends. Even though these politicians pay lip service to the 2nd Amendment, they would throw all gun owners under the bus if they thought for a moment that it would give them some political advantage. Or allow them to steal more money.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Seems the republicans here are talking to themselves!Not a good sign for getting a straight answer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from cmrosko wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

It's certainly no secret that the GOP has showed a very strong anti-conservation / pro industrialization bent for a very very long time. It's confounding that a significant majority of sportsmen continue to support and vote such folks into office. This also also one of my main reasons for no longer being a contributing member to the NRA.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from gundogco wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Thanks for the heads up. We will tweet this article to help spread the word

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

The most enraging part of this is that the bill's opponents had the most money to spend to "lobby" Congress. So, the MERITS of any legislation have little to do with whether it gets passed or not, and everything to do with what amounts to outright bribery of our public "servants". I call them public enemies. Most of the current maggots in the House and Congress are the mortal enemies of sportsmen, no matter what lying BS they feed you. Cross their palms with silver and they would sell their mothers.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Erik Jensen wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Thanks, Bob, a reminder to get on this ! Nice clear explanation of the machinations of the legislative process, and clearly the White House needs pressure on the clean water guidance. The house GOP needs to feel some pressure for being against hunting and angling interests.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

cmrosko: Even though I am a life member, I also am feeling pretty unhappy with the NRA, since as you point out they support a bunch of people that I have nothing but contempt and dislike for and who are NOT our friends. Even though these politicians pay lip service to the 2nd Amendment, they would throw all gun owners under the bus if they thought for a moment that it would give them some political advantage. Or allow them to steal more money.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Trapper Vic wrote 1 year 38 weeks ago

Seems the republicans here are talking to themselves!Not a good sign for getting a straight answer.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Washington, D.C., July 11, 2012 — American Farmland Trust (AFT) welcomed the House Agriculture Committee 2012 farm bill mark-up that was convened this morning and congratulates Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) for their progress in crafting a farm bill.RESS RELEASE

AFT President Jon Scholl strongly urged Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the finished committee bill to the floor expeditiously.

“We are pleased with the progress the House Agriculture Committee has made on the 2012 farm bill and appreciate the leadership of Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson in moving the process forward,” said AFT President Jon Scholl. “It is critical that the House complete action on the farm bill as soon as possible so that a final House-Senate compromise bill can be sent to the President to be signed into law.”

On a program level, AFT is particularly pleased that the new streamlined Agriculture Land Easement activity is built on the principles AFT recommended: keep working lands in agricultural production, rely on the use of permanent easements and work through partnerships at the local level.

Scholl noted that the Chairman’s mark did not contain a conservation compliance provision linked to crop insurance. “The Senate added a conservation compliance provision via an amendment by Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) during consideration of the farm bill. This is a commonsense way to continue to protect our most vulnerable lands as the farm safety net evolves to be based more on subsidized crop insurance. We urge the House to follow suit,” said Scholl.

According to a recent survey of farmers conducted across 13 states by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies, heartland farmers believe by a nearly two-to-one margin that farmers should be required to meet some environmental standards in order to receive federal benefits such as crop insurance. The survey found that 61 percent of farmers agree with linking federal subsidies, including crop insurance, to environmental standards.

Other insights provided by the survey results include:
•Eighty-six percent of farmers say the level of conservation funding should be maintained or increased.
•Nearly 75 percent of farmers say that conservation programs help their bottom line.
•“This survey illustrates that farmers understand the importance of conservation in maintaining the productivity and viability of American agriculture in an increasingly global marketplace,” said Scholl. He urged Congress to hold the line on funding for conservation programs.

“We recognize that this farm bill faces fiscal constraints, and certainly conservation programs have not been immune to deficit reduction efforts. The proposed cuts will be difficult to absorb. It is absolutely critical for the long term productivity of American agriculture that Congress hold the line on funding for conservation provided in the Senate bill and the House Agriculture Committee’s draft,” Scholl said.

“We look forward to working with Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson as they work to complete action on this important piece of legislation. It affects the food we eat, the farmers and ranchers that grow and raise our food, the land and water on which it is grown, many sectors of our economy and the daily life of virtually every American for the next ten years,” said Scholl.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

38 republicans and 24 democrats sent letter to Majority leader John Beohner to bring to a vote. Pretty sure that is bipartisan and not just evil republicans doing what we do best(being evil that is)!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

80% of this bill goes towards food stamp program (A.K.A. SNAP) That is where the inconsitencies lie and your opportunity to bash the republicans knowing the sheeple here will believe everything you say. Not to mention the reason conservation funds are in there is because non other than a REPUBLICAN Saxby Chandliss! dundundun!!!! Doesn't fit your liberal agenda does it? You're a fraud and weasel!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Trivia Question:

What president passed the only farm bill on time in recent DECADES?

Answer to follow!

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 39 weeks ago

Where's a link to read the bill?

-2 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

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