Ducks Unlimited Says Strong Conservation Programs are Critical for Farmers and Wildlife
Little Rock, Ark., October 18, 2005 – Representatives from Ducks Unlimited (DU) joined Arkansas farmers and waterfowlers at the State Fair Grounds last Friday for a meeting with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Deputy Secretary Chuck Conner. During the meeting, several attendees encouraged the USDA to maintain strong conservation programs in the next Farm Bill.
“The resounding message from farmers and waterfowlers was that the 2002 Farm Bill is working well for Arkansas farmers and sportsmen,” said Craig Hilburn, director of conservation programs for DU in Arkansas.
The present Farm Bill expires in 2007. It has provided critical assistance for farmers and ranchers, and vital conservation programs for waterfowl and other wildlife.
Two of the most successful conservation programs in history, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) are part of the Farm Bill. These voluntary programs pay farmers and ranchers to restore, protect and enhance wetlands in exchange for retiring marginally productive land from agriculture.
Getting paid to stop farming marginally productive land allows farmers to concentrate money and resources on farming their most productive land. Waterfowl and other wildlife benefit as the marginal lands revert back to a more natural habitat.
“The conservation programs in the Farm Bill are extremely important to the future of waterfowl populations, especially programs like CRP and WRP,” said Hilburn. “CRP is critical to conserving grasslands where waterfowl breed.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that the Conservation Reserve Program, itself, increases duck populations by more than two million birds per year. Hilburn says that’s good news for waterfowl hunters.
Presently, there are nearly three million acres set to expire from CRP programs across North and South Dakota – the heart of U.S. waterfowl production. Without continued funding to re-enroll these lands in CRP, waterfowl populations will likely suffer.
“Likewise, the Wetlands Reserve Program restores much needed migration and winter waterfowl habitat,” Hilburn said. “Many of those wetlands are right here in Arkansas, the duck hunting capital of the world.”
“The reason that waterfowl come to the lower Mississippi Valley, and Arkansas specifically, is because of farmers and ranchers across the south who farm their lands and practice conservation day in and day out,” Hilburn said.
Hilburn says it’s important for the conservation programs in the Farm Bill to remain well funded.
“Waterfowl are not the only ones that benefit from these popular programs,” said Hilburn. “Many landowners are able to retire croplands that are unproductive for agriculture, while retaining ownership of the land. Waterfowl benefit from the improved habitat, and those that love the land are able to keep and manage it for wildlife.”
To voice your support for the upcoming Farm Bill, log on to http://www.ducks.org/2007FarmBill/
or visit the USDA website at www.usda.gov and submit your feedback in writing. Individuals may also mail comments to U.S. Secretary Michael Johanns at the U.S. Department of Agriculture 1400 Independence Ave., S.W. Washington, DC 20250.
With more than a million supporters, Ducks Unlimited is the world’s largest wetlands and waterfowl conservation organization. The United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands – nature’s most productive ecosystems – and continues to lose more than 100,000 wetland acres each year.