When Ducks Unlimited invited Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, to its Memphis office to discuss its priorities for the upcoming farm bill, the organization didn't have to spend much time educating the senator about ducks.

In fact, in this meeting, one duck hunter was speaking to another. Peterson, an avid waterfowl hunter, was in the area for a farm bill town hall meeting in Arkansas and dropped by DU offices for a meeting.

“Congressman Peterson has a challenging job in leading the process to develop a new federal farm bill,” Jim Hulbert, DU president, said.

“He was gracious to meet with us and listen to our suggestions for working with America's farmers and ranchers on this important legislation.”

Among items discussed with Peterson were:

  • Maintaining 7.8 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program land in the Prairie Pothole Region.

  • Ensuring an annual allocation of at least 250,000 acres of Wetlands Reserve Program land, with a nationwide cap of 3.525 million acres.

  • Support a “sodsaver” amendment that removes incentives for those who convert native prairie to cropland.

  • Maintain current protection measures for preventing conversion of wetlands to other uses.

  • Ensure the agriculture policy development for renewable energy is consistent with fish, wildlife, soil and water conservation goals.

“DU works with America's farmers and ranchers every day making sure they get the technical assistance necessary to make the farm bill conservation programs work best on their land,” Hulbert said.

“We believe the best agriculture land should be farmed and ranched and land not good for crops or grazing, like wetlands, should be conserved for wildlife and maintaining clean water. That's why we say, ‘farm the best, conserve the rest.’”

Key farm conservation programs include the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, and the Grasslands Reserve Program.

In many states, DU works cooperatively with the federal agencies that have jurisdiction over these programs and provides technical assistance to farmers and ranchers who participate in these programs on their land.

Ducks Unlimited says the United States alone has lost more than half of its original wetlands — nature's most productive ecosystem — and continues to lose more than 80,000 wetland acres each year.