Get Local: Encourage farm bill action with a letter to the editor

Washington, D.C., may seem far removed from where you live, but lawmakers keep their ear to the ground when it comes to their constituents’ opinions. One of the ways members of Congress and their staffs stay on top of issues and attitudes is by reading hometown newspapers in their state, which provides Ducks Unlimited supporters a great opportunity to write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to encourage congressional action on a full five-year farm bill.

Farm bill facts

Last year, the Senate passed a five-year farm bill that included a national Sodsaver program, re-coupled compliance with crop insurance and provided strong baseline funding for conservation programs. The U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee passed their own version of the bill, but it was never called for a vote of passage from all representatives. Since a new session of Congress began in January, the unfinished bill must be started from scratch.

The 2008 Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, 2012, but was extended through September 2013 as part of the last-minute fiscal cliff agreement. The extension allows the bill’s conservation programs to continue accepting enrollment in the Wetlands Reserve Program, Conservation Reserve Program and Grasslands Reserve Program under the programs’ existing caps. However, these cap levels could still be affected by any additional fiscal cliff agreements coming in the next few months.

The U.S. Senate has already said passing a comprehensive, five-year farm bill is a priority for 2013. The House of Representatives has also said they are committed to working on a bill, though their timeline is less clear. DU’s priorities for a full farm bill continue to be: a national Sodsaver program, re-coupling compliance to crop insurance and comprehensive funding for conservation programs.

Tips for your letter to the editor

Newspapers have different length restrictions, but letters to the editor are usually kept around 200-250 words and are more likely to be printed if you describe how the farm bill conservation programs affect your community.

Your newspaper’s opinion section will usually contain an email address to which you can submit your letters. Once you do so, it’s OK to call the paper and encourage them to print it.

We’ve prepared three sample letters to the editor about the farm bill to help you get started. 

Good luck, and let us know if your letter is printed! Just email Heather Stegner, DU’s government affairs communications manager, at hstegner@ducks.org.