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Policy News: Vol. 2, Issue 50

Top stories for Dec. 14, 2010
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  • Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a bill making it a criminal offense to import Asian carp into the U.S. The bill now goes to the White House for the President's signature.
    photo by JasonLindsey.com
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Bill outlawing importation of Asian carp into U.S. one step closer to becoming law

Efforts to keep harmful Asian carp out of Great Lakes waters were strengthened last week when the U.S. House of Representatives adopted a bill making it a criminal offense to import Asian carp into the United States. The bill, which passed the House by voice vote after unanimously passing the U.S. Senate last month, now goes to the White House for the President's signature.

DU has strongly encouraged federal, state and local agencies and public groups to work together to implement a short-term strategy to prevent Asian carp migration into the Great Lakes and to develop a long-term solution that would prevent invasive species from traveling between two of the nation's key watersheds: the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Maintenance of the current $475 million funding level for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is critical to a successful outcome.

"Should this bill become law, it would be a big success for those who have worked to solve the problem of invasive Asian carp," said Gildo Tori, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office. "The Great Lakes are a key mid-continent migration rest stop for hundreds of thousands of waterfowl each spring and fall. The wetlands and shallow bays of the lakes provide food resources for many species of waterfowl, including canvasbacks, redheads and scaup."

In the 1970s, giant carp were legally imported to fish farms along the Mississippi River, but the fish escaped during floods and spread north into Illinois. They consume vast amounts of food and could destroy Great Lakes fisheries if they evade barriers around Chicago that were designed to block them from entering the lakes.


DU public policy director touts Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative at USA Rice Outlook Conference

Dan Wrinn, DU public policy director
DU Public Policy Director Dan Wrinn spoke in support of rice farmers’ participation in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative at the 2010 USA Rice Outlook Conference.

Dan Wrinn, public policy director at DU's Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., attended the 2010 USA Rice Outlook Conference last week. The conference brought together more than 650 attendees, including farmers from all rice-growing states and others from throughout the U.S. rice industry, for an educational program and trade show.

The conference included sessions on the outlook for farm policy in the 112th Congress and the rice industry's sustainability efforts. Wrinn used the opportunity to highlight rice producers in five states who contributed significantly this year to providing migratory waterfowl habitat by enrolling in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative, a U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation program to provide additional habitat for migratory waterfowl affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill. Wrinn, along with rice farmers Jeff Durand of Louisiana and DU member Laurance Armour of Texas, addressed the success of the program.

The MBHI is operating in eight states, including the rice-producing states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas. Durand and Armour said the response from farmers to the initiative was greater than had been expected. USDA distributed more than $40 million for 1,950 MBHI contracts that covered in excess of 470,000 acres. MBHI rice acreage enrollment in four of the five rice-producing states exceeded 80 percent.

DU's participation in the MBHI resulted from a $2.5 million grant DU received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to provide additional habitat for waterfowl and other birds migrating to the Gulf Coast this fall and winter. The goal of the initiative was to impact 20,000 acres of wetland habitat on lands adjacent to or near Gulf Coast marshes. However, to date, DU, in partnership with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service, has used the grant to impact more than 79,000 wetland acres in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas.


Newly appointed chairmen to lead committees integral to Farm Bill programs, clean water policy

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (OK) was elected by his colleagues to serve as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in the 112th Congress. DU is looking forward to working with Rep. Lucas on the status of the upcoming Farm Bill, as he has served on the House Agriculture Committee since he became a member of the House of Representatives in 1994 and is knowledgeable of the conservation title within the Farm Bill.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas (above), the newly elected chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, and U.S. Rep. John Mica (below), the newly elected chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, will play important roles in clean water and Farm Bill policy. Photos courtesy house.gov and washingtonpost.com
U.S. Rep. John Mica

The Farm Bill's conservation title provides significant resources for the conservation of critical waterfowl and wildlife habitat. "Farm Bill programs that are significant to DU include the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and the Grasslands Reserve Program," said Scott Sutherland, director of DU's Governmental Affairs Office. "These programs not only benefit waterfowl but many other wildlife species and habitats. We look forward to working with Rep. Lucas and the House Agriculture Committee as they play an integral role in the allocation of funding for these conservation programs coming up in the 2012 Farm Bill."

Waterfowl hunters can also be encouraged that Lucas is a member of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, a body of nearly 300 congressmen with bipartisan leadership in both the House and the Senate. The CSC is an ally in Washington for sportsmen in promoting and protecting the rights of hunters, trappers and anglers.

Another U.S. Representative, John L. Mica (FL), was elected chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in the 112th Congress. The committee has broad jurisdiction over the nation's highways, aviation system, transit, rail transportation, pipelines, the Coast Guard, maritime transportation, water resources, economic development, public buildings and emergency management.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee plays a significant role in decisions effecting clean water policy. Ducks Unlimited supports efforts to restore the Clean Water Act's safety net for prairie potholes and more than 20 million acres of wetlands throughout the United States that provide habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. The committee also has a hand in the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes flood control, navigation and environmental projects and studies by the United States Army Corps of Engineers.

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