In Tennessee, we don’t think about the federal farm bill and other such legislation very much. Some farmers do take advantage of various federal programs to protect and enhance their land for wildlife, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they allow public access to it.
However, do as I have done the past four years, and visit South Dakota to go hunting. I assume many other Midwest states are similar. Prowl those areas searching for public places to hunt waterfowl and pheasants; and you soon learn that land such as federal waterfowl production areas, paid for by federal duck stamps, and/or Conservation Reserve Program land are critical commodities for hunters. In the Midwest, those areas include millions of acres, and much-or most-of that land is open to public hunting through various federal or state-managed programs.
Although not all such lands are directly impacted by the farm bill being negotiated right now, CRPs are in the mix, as well as other important programs.
After months of intense negotiations, the 2014 farm bill finally made it out of conference committee and now heads to the House and Senate for confirmation. Dozens of sportsmen and conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited, are encouraged by the report and supportive of its passage in both houses.
“South Dakota is a big part of North America’s Prairie Pothole Region and the ‘Duck Factory,'” said Kevin Fuerst, South Dakota’s newly elected state chairman for DU. “While our wetlands continue to be drained at an alarming rate, this farm bill’s Sodsaver Program and the recoupling of conservation compliance to crop insurance provide hope that we can continue to protect habitat and still allow our farmers and ranchers to be productive. The bill is a compromise to be sure, but one that all parties can live with.”
One thing the bill does is end direct payments to farmers. Supporters of the compromise bill say direct payment subsidies are paid to farmers every year, whether they need it or not. Senate and House negotiators have ended these payments in the final 2014 farm bill. Instead, the farm bill creates a risk management approach that provides support for farmers only when they are hit with weather disasters or market volatility. The new farm bill strengthens crop insurance, which supporters say is more cost-effective than traditional farm subsidies because it requires farmers to have skin in the game by purchasing insurance policies to help ensure they aren’t wiped out by disasters.
The groups that have signed on in support of the bill include Archery Trade Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Boone and Crockett Club, Bowhunting Preservation Alliance, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Catch-A-Dream Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen Foundation, Conservation Force, Masters of Foxhounds Association, Mississippi River Trust, Mule Deer Foundation, National Association of Forest Service Retirees, National Rifle Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, North American Grouse Partnership, Pheasants Forever, Pope and Young Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ruffed Grouse Society, Texas Wildlife Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Quail Forever, Quality Deer Management Association, Wildlife Forever and Wildlife Mississippi.
Click here to read the letter they have sent to House members.
Go here to contact your legislators and let them know you support the 2014 farm bill.