IKES: More Work Needed on Conservation in Farm Bill

Saint Paul, MN – May 17, 2007 – The Izaak Walton League of America (IWLA) today greeted the commencement of the House Agriculture Committee’s farm bill process. Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, announced a discussion draft for the conservation title that the sub-committee will take up Tuesday. “Unfortunately, the Sodsaver initiative was not included in the Farm Bill framework,” said Brad Redlin, Agricultural Program Director of the IWLA, of the priority issue for conservationists nationally. The Sodsaver program would protect natural grassland areas that have never been farmed by making them ineligible for any Farm Bill support payments. The IWLA issued an analysis of U.S. Farm Policy in early 2007 entitled, “Stewardship, Prosperity, and Fairness,” which recommends closing loopholes for commodity payments and using those savings for increased economic and conservation gains in rural America. “One of the best devices for gaining savings and increasing conservation is the Sodsaver program,” said Redlin. The League pointed out that some other provisions of Peterson’s outline needed improvements. These included: - Assurance that the vital and popular Wetlands Reserve Program will be maintained and not subject to the vagaries of reserve fund maneuvers. - Reforming the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to protect its conservation purpose and the public’s investment by restricting mega payments for industrial-scale confinement construction. - Prioritizing the wildlife benefits and resource protection opportunities of an ongoing Conservation Security Program. Additionally, the League conducted a four-month, six-state series of Farm Bill Forums. The purpose of the forums—which convened organizations representing production agriculture, conservation, economic development and other rural interests—was to find common ground on farm bill policy among the diverse spectrum of farm bill advocates and constituents. Among the areas where the IWLA Farm Bill Forum attendees agreed: - Prioritize conservation by maintaining all existing Farm Bill conservation programs, and funding the programs at their full-authorized level. - Maintain a safety net function with commodity programs that protect producers in times of down markets, but close loopholes that allow unlimited payments. - Prohibit commodity, conservation, disaster, and crop insurance subsidies on any new cropland acres that are put into production as a result of breaking remaining prairie and pasture land with no previous cropping history (Sodsaver). - Analyze the delivery and monitor the results of Farm Bill programs to ensure intended goals are being met and public funds are being used effectively. - Prioritize biofuel and biomass energy research and development within a conservation framework. “The Izaak Walton League of America hopes that Chairman Peterson and his committee will use this information and this opportunity to craft forward looking legislation that ensures we have profitable and productive farms that create food, fiber and energy while serving as America’s front line land stewards,” Redlin concluded. “It is imperative that the 2007 Farm Bill establishes the path toward an agricultural future that serves all Americans.” The full IWLA Farm Bill report, The 2007 Farm Bill: Stewardship, Prosperity and Fairness, as well as summary reports of the six state forums, are available online at www.iwla.org or by contacting the Izaak Walton League Midwest Office at (651) 649-1446 or bredlin@iwla.org