Landowner discusses importance of Farm Bill, Wetlands Reserve Program with aides
VINCENNES, Ind. – June 12, 2007 – Ray McCormick, a Vincennes, Ind., landowner, joined three other landowners from Ohio, Tennessee and Mississippi in Washington, D.C., on May 22-24, as part of the Ducks Unlimited-sponsored farmer fly-in program. Through this program, farmers fly to D.C. to educate and inform legislators of the importance of the 2007 Farm Bill Conservation Provisions, and specifically funding for the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) as part of the Farm Bill conservation title.
McCormick met with Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-8th) and his staff, as well as aides from the offices of five other Indiana congressmen, including Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-2nd), Mark Souder (R-3rd), Dan Burton (D-5th) and Baron Hill (D-9th), and Sen. Richard Lugar. They discussed the ins and outs of the Farm Bill and of the Wetlands Reserve Program, and the importance of its renewal to landowners and farmers across the country.
“The aides were well informed and listened to what we had to say about the Wetlands Reserve Program, about our experiences as property owners and cultivators of the land,” said McCormick, a third-generator farmer of approximately 3,700 acres and own of 2,000 acres enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program. “In the days prior to my visit, ethanol and alternative fuels were a hot item in Washington, which played in well with the ideas of conservation and land use. Their interest was piqued already.”
One of the key topics discussed during the fly-in was the additional funding necessary to keep the Wetlands Reserve Program going. Every year, enrollment in the Wetlands Reserve Program exceeds its financial backing by a factor of three to one. Even though the Wetlands Reserve Program is already included in House Agriculture Chairman Colin Peterson’s current proposal, the funding is still far from secure, due to the expiration of the program and the 2002 Farm Bill.
“Even though the Wetlands Reserve Program is getting a lot of verbal support from farmers, landowners and conservation and farm groups, it’s up to Congress to find the dollars to continue this program,” said Gildo Tori, director of public policy at Ducks Unlimited’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Regional Office. “The Wetlands Reserve Program is the best wetland restoration program for private landowners, is in high demand and is a win-win for farmers and taxpayers and those that love wildlife, clean water and a healthy environment.”
Another topic McCormick discussed with policymakers was the appraisals process associated with the Wetlands Reserve Program. McCormick and a majority of U.S. landowners want to change Farm Bill policy and revert the appraisals process to that of pre-2003. This offers landowners a fairer deal to have their property enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program.
“You have to make conservation economically viable for farmers, or it can’t compete with other commodities,” said Tori. “The Wetlands Reserve Program isn’t land retirement—it’s growing a different crop on land that isn’t suitable for corn, beans and other traditional crops. On Wetlands Reserve Program land, we’re growing conservation—wildlife and water quality—which feeds the needs of society and our environment.”
What can farmers and landowners do if they can’t make a trip meet with legislators in Washington?
“Ever farmer can visit with his congressmen when they return to their home state,” said McCormick. “One of the most effective tools is to offer to take them on a tour of your land, especially if you’ve had any sort of wetland restoration or other conservation work done on the property.”
McCormick says this method offers a visual message of conservation. He suggests bringing along representatives from partner organizations and focusing on the interrelationships between the partners.
“The younger faces in Washington love hands-on, visual demonstrations of their policies played out in real life, with real people, on real acreage. There’s no more effective way to show Congress how important the Wetlands Reserve Program is than to walk a representative by a wetland and show him how its restoration has transformed the landscape and infinitely increased its value,” said McCormick.
Contact: Kristin Schrader
Public Affairs Coordinator
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest and most effective wetland and waterfowl conservation organization, with almost 12 million acres conserved. The United States has lost more than half of its original wetlands—nature’s most productive ecosystem—and continues to lose more than 80,000 acres each year.