The Bush administration has scheduled a series of listening sessions aimed at addressing issues that are expected to be at the center of the debate over conservation programs in the 2007 farm bill.

Farmers in the Mid-South may have to travel some distance to make their opinions heard during the sessions, which began in Spokane, Wash., Aug. 9. The closest sessions now scheduled to the Mid-South will be held in Jefferson City, Mo., Aug. 29 or Enid, Okla., Aug. 30.

Farm organizations are urging their members to attend the sessions to provide input about future conservation policies that could become more important as Congress prepares to write a new farm bill.

“The process of developing better and more efficient conservation policies and programs, as well as opening the communication between landusers and the government, is vital to growers,” said Bill Chase, chairman of the National Corn Growers Association's production and stewardship committee.

“Corn growers are mindful of the need for environmental stewardship and providing a safe and dependable food supply.

“NCGA encourages corn growers to be involved in these open discussions.”

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson and White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton are expected to appear at some of the sessions. At least four more sessions will be added later.

Chase noted growers must participate in open forums such as these to be part of the process of making public policy. “Programs and policy are made by those individuals who show up to discuss,” he said.

“If we want to improve conservation policies, growers need to be involved.”

The focus on the meetings will be on issues, programs and policies mentioned at the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation in August 2005.

For more information on the session and to register for the events over the Internet, go to http://cooperativeconservation.gov.