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Conservation programs remain a critical tool for Tenn. farmers

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Dyersburg conservationist discusses Farm Bill with Tenn. delegation

DYERSBURG, Tenn., May 30, 2007 - Dyer County landowner, Greg Ford traveled to Washington D.C. last week to meet with representatives, senators and other policymakers about reauthorizing Farm Bill conservation programs, among them the Wetlands Reserve Program. Ford met individually with Tennessee Reps. John Tanner, Marsha Blackburn, Zach Wamp, and Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander and/or their staff.

Ford, accompanied by Ducks Unlimited staff, and several other U.S. landowners and farmers encouraged Congress to support a strong conservation title in the 2007 Farm Bill.

“I made this trip to Capitol Hill so our members of Congress could hear firsthand from landowners like me about the importance of maintaining a well-funded suite of conservation programs in the next Farm Bill,” said Ford.

“Letting our representatives in Washington know that their constituents are informed and concerned about the future of the Farm Bill is one of the best ways to ensure its reauthorization,” said Ross Melinchuk director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited’s Southern Regional Office.

Ducks Unlimited’s motto during the crafting of the next federal farm bill is “Farm the best, conserve the rest.” Farm Bill conservation programs allow farmers to do just that.

Greg Ford and his family own two farms in Dyer County. During the 1970s, when soybean prices were high, trees were cleared and the land was converted to cropland. By enrolling in the Wetlands Reserve Program, Greg was able to restore nearly 1,300 acres of marginal cropland to former forested and wetland conditions.

“Our main incentive for enrolling in the Wetlands Reserve Program was the conservation benefit of protecting the property from development and returning marginal croplands to their former natural condition. These farms probably should have never been cleared in the first place,” said Ford. “Our family has a strong land ethic and we enjoy the waterfowl and deer hunting opportunities afforded by the restored wildlife habitat.”

The Wetlands Reserve Program offers landowners an opportunity to implement long-term wildlife habitat enhancement practices and protect their property from future development through permanent and 30-year conservation easements. The widely popular program is not authorized beyond this year and will go un-funded unless Congress acts to both reauthorize and fund the Wetlands Reserve Program in the 2007 Farm Bill.

“I was especially concerned when I learned that the future of the Wetlands Reserve Program is up in the air,” remarked Ford who is dedicated to conserving the natural resources on his property. “I thought Tennessee’s members of Congress should know just how critical it is for them to do everything in their power to ensure this program remains viable in the next Farm Bill.”

Today, Ford’s land that was restored through the Wetland Reserve Program helps prevent soil erosion, filter contaminants from runoff water and provide habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife. The Ford family also owns property in Illinois and plans to enroll a portion of that property in the Program should it remain funded in the 2007 Farm Bill.

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 alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands - nature’s most productive ecosystem - and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.

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Contact: Jennifer Kross
601-956-1936
jkross@ducks.org

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