Ducks Unlimited CEO Dale Hall and Chief Conservation Officer Paul Schmidt joined agricultural producers and DU governmental affairs staff in Washington, D.C., this week to impress upon members of Congress the importance of maintaining strong conservation programs in the 2012 Farm Bill.
Hall spoke during Tuesday's Congressional Sportsmen Foundation (CSF) breakfast on Capitol Hill and emphasized the importance of the farm bill conservation title to the conservation and sportsmen communities, and the value of these programs to keeping working farmers and ranchers on their lands.
"It is critical that the federal government continues to support these programs; whether it's the North American Wetlands Conservation Act or the farm bill, all of these programs are significant in maintaining a sustainable waterfowl population," Hall told the more than 100 CSF breakfast attendees, including 10 members of Congress.
Hall also emphasized that, while recently released waterfowl numbers look promising, they come in spite of continued habitat loss in key breeding areas like the Prairie Pothole Region. He said these numbers cannot be sustained if the country does not invest in programs that allow landowners to work with groups like Ducks Unlimited to ensure high-quality waterfowl habitat on their land is protected. "When you think about buffering the damage that has been done and the loss of habitat—and yet we are, through partnerships, able to still pull together good wetland habitat to support these birds—it really drives home how important the farm bill is to conservation in this country."
During the briefing, Hall and others highlighted the following three provisions as farm bill conservation priorities: 1) maintain/strengthen effective wetland protections through re-coupling conservation compliance with crop insurance; 2) include a national Sodsaver provision to protect native prairie and other important grasslands; and 3) provide strong baseline funding for the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetland and Agriculture Easements Programs, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program and the Voluntary Public Access Program.
Hall and Schmidt also met with friends and champions of conservation in Congress, including the primary supporters of a national Sodsaver provision in the 2012 Farm Bill, Sen. John Thune (SD), Rep. Kristi Noem (SD) and Rep. Tim Walz (MN). Hall sat down with House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (MN). Hall also met with Sen. Jim Inhofe (OK), whom he thanked for helping pass the Gulf Coast RESTORE Act in the recently enacted transportation bill, and for moving the Senate NAWCA reauthorization bill out of committee.
Hall and Schmidt were joined on Capitol Hill by Iowa landowner Jim Goodman and Minnesota landowners Toni and Philip Brink, who met with these and other members of Congress as part of DU's farmer fly-in program. Read more about this visits at http://www.ducks.org/farm-bill/capitol-visit-successful-for-iowa-minnesota-farmers.