Please call your U.S. House of Representatives member TODAY and urge them to support the conservation provisions in the Farm Bill.
by Bob Marshall (posted with permission)
“Conservation groups this week are sending a desperate plea to sportsmen: Contact your House members today and urge them to bring the Farm Bill up for a vote. The desperation is born of the frustration of watching victory slowly slip away.
After months of hard work–and against some long odds–a good bill came out of the Senate last month, then a pretty good matching bill out of the House Agriculture Committee last week. But election-year theatrics could keep the most important fish and wildlife conservation legislation from making it to President Obama’s desk before the current bill expires Sept. 30.
And after that the whole year-long effort could be nullified.
“Right now the odds of getting a vote on the House floor before the August recess [typically Aug. 1 until Labor Day] doesn’t look too good,” said Steve Klein, Director of the Center for Agriculture and Private Lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “And at that point we’ll be up against a very tight deadline, because the current bill expires Sept. 30, and the (congressional) calendar is very crowded.”
“Frankly, we need sportsmen to contact their House members right away. We need to get this done before Sept. 30.”
If that deadline isn’t passed, the following scenarios come into play:
• Congress would have to pass an extension of the current bill, or all federal farm programs would revert back to provisions of the original 1949 bill. If that happens many key conservation measures–such as the Wetlands Reserve and Grasslands Reserve initiatives–would have to go through new authorization processes because they would cease to exist.
• Since the political consequences of a lapsed Farm Bill could be disastrous–even to those against current programs–Congress is likely to pass an extension. This happened in 2008. Indeed, insiders say some members have extension bills “waiting in their back pockets.”
“The problem with that is we won’t know exactly what’s in it,” said Klein. “It would be a pretty quick vote, and we would have to hope our programs don’t suffer too much.”
• Once the extension is passed, the fate of the currently negotiated bill would largely be determined by the outcome of the fall election. If those opposed to conservation spending became more powerful, approval of the current bill seems unlikely.
In fact, if nothing much changes in the political dynamics on Capitol Hill, most veteran conservation lobbyists see another season of bitter, hard-fought “continuing budget resolutions” with key programs like WRP, CRP and GRP limping along with uncertain futures. That isn’t to say the 2012 bill is perfect. Steep cuts were enacted in CRP in both houses that eventually will bring total acreage in the program down from the current cap of 32 million to 25 million.
But the significant change of linking compliance to conservation regulations to crop insurance subsidies made it through both houses–a move that could considerably improve the effectiveness of all conservation programs in the Farm Bill in the future.
So it’s worth saving. And worth a phone call or email.
“The best thing sportsmen can do for conservation right now is to contact their House reps and tell them they want this bill to come to a vote,” said Klein.”