The bill, the Farm Security Act of 2001, would raise spending for conservation programs by 80 percent above current levels. But organizations such as Ducks Unlimited are lobbying Congress to shift almost $2 billion per year from commodity programs to the Wetlands Reserve Program and the Conservation Reserve Program.
Ducks Unlimited and other groups are working on Capitol Hill to garner support for the Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest Amendment, which is expected to be offered when the House Ag Committee farm bill comes to the floor of the House Tuesday or Wednesday.
The two Mississippi farm organizations, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and the Stoneville-based Delta Council, believe the effort is misguided.
“We are facing a desperate situation in agriculture and the House of Representatives has devised a 10-year farm policy that could help Mississippi farmers and ranchers compete over the coming years, while providing enormous funding increases for farm conservation efforts,” said Ben Lamensdorf, Delta Council president from Cary.
“As a matter of fact, commodity organizations across the country, including organizations like Farm Bureau, Delta Council, National Cotton Council, and U.S. Rice Producers, all supported an 80 percent increase in conservation title spending in the Farm Bill as passed by the House Agriculture Committee.”
Mississippi Farm Bureau President David Waide of West Point noted that farmers have been and will continue to be supportive of conservation efforts.
“Farmers and ranchers have been the backbone of all of the conservation efforts that have happened in this country over the past years,” said Waide. “It is disappointing that groups such as Ducks Unlimited, who have relied on farmer-led conservation efforts, are now trying to shift almost 20 percent of the commodity funds to conservation efforts when farmers have consistently supported and delivered increased funding for conservation efforts.
“One of the greatest concerns I have is food as a national security issue and one of the problems I have is giving up commodity title money for conservation use and the resulting loss of security for this nation of consumers.”
Waide and Lamensdorf said the underpinnings of rural America and Mississippi are being deteriorated due to the current period of economic depression in agriculture.
“It is hard to fathom that our friends in the conservation community would want to impose such drastic actions on agriculture and we hope that farmers and ranchers will contact their Congressional representatives to vote against the Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest Amendment.”
The latter was written by Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis., whose “working land stewardship” plan would spend $3 billion a year or $30 billion over the life of the 10-year farm bill on land, water and wildlife conservation.