Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes/Atlantic regional office
in Ann Arbor hosted a Farm Bill
roundtable this week. Tina May, a senior staffer from the Senate Agricultural Committee, brought stakeholders up to date on some of the ins and outs of the important legislation.
The Farm Bill holds the funding for agricultural conservation programs, including, but not limited to, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
. These voluntary, incentive-based programs help farmers and ranchers conserve soil, as well as keep our streams, rivers and lakes clean. They are of particular interest to waterfowlers because they directly affect duck populations
and our hunting heritage.
DU and its colleague conservation organizations, as well as agriculture commodity groups, continue to advocate conclusive Farm Bill reauthorization by Congress this year. Failure to vote on and then pass a Farm Bill could result in an extension that does not favor conservation.
"The value of agricultural conservation programs has never been easier to see," said Becky Humphries, director of DU's Great Lakes/Atlantic Region. "The Conservation Reserve Program, designed to hold land out of tillage, is providing emergency haying and grazing for our nation's cattle farmers right now. Without programs to support such actions we could have seen even more tragic results than we already have from this summer's drought."
CRP is one of the most successful conservation programs in U.S. history. Farmers and ranchers are paid an annual rental rate for 10 to 15 years to restore former cropland to grass cover and, in doing so, significantly reduce erosion. The positive impact CRP has had on waterfowl, pheasant and other grassland-nesting bird populations has been amazing. In the U.S. Prairie Pothole Region
alone, CRP lands produce an estimated 2.2 million ducks each year, birds that arrive in every flyway in the fall.
Ducks Unlimited staff and volunteers had opportunities to attend events with Sen. Debbie Stabenow (MI) during the August recess. The senator serves as the chair for the Senate Agricultural Committee, which passed its version of the Farm Bill in June.