Farm Bill plays well among conservation groups

Not surprisingly, the Farm Bill passed this morning by the U.S. House of Representatives is playing well with conservation groups across the country because of its provisions aimed at protecting soil and water resources.

The House passed the bill with a bipartisan vote of 251-166.

Among the bill’s conservation provisions are measures to re-couple conservation compliance to crop insurance and a Sodsaver program affecting top duck-producing states of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Here’s a look at some of the reactions from the conservation community:

Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited

Dale Hall

“This is a big win for conservation and for working farmers and ranchers. The conservation programs authorized and funded through the farm bill are the backbone of Ducks Unlimited conservation work on private lands, and they have just been strengthened by the inclusion of our top priorities.”

Bridgit Collins, agricultural policy coordinator
for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

“The Farm Bill the House has passed today wisely includes the re-linkage of commonsense conservation compliance with federal crop insurance premium assistance. This provision will go a long way toward making sure the American taxpayer isn’t providing an incentive for wetland drainage and soil erosion. The compliance language that is included is the product of a groundbreaking effort between conservation groups, commodity organizations and the crop insurance industry. As a result of that collaboration, the policy is workable and pragmatic, and both conservation and agriculture will be stronger for it,” Collins continued.

Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental
affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever

Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. (Pheasants Forever photo)

“Over the past few years, high crop prices and high land values have pushed crop production onto every available acre, including some of our last, best, prairie habitat. This habitat is essential for upland birds and waterfowl; fortunately, the Farm Bill the House passed today does include a strong Sodsaver policy, and while the provision is limited to six states, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, it represents a compromise that will help save native prairie in the states where it is most threatened.

“Conservation compliance and Sodsaver aren’t just good policy for natural resources; they are good policy for the American taxpayer. Taken together, the two provisions will save the American taxpayers millions of dollars.

“Now that the House has completed work on the Farm Bill, the Senate must take the bill up as soon as possible and send a bill to the president’s desk,” said Nomsen. “We cannot afford any more delays or false starts. Rural America, hunters, anglers, landowners – everyone needs this Farm Bill completed.”

Steve Kline, director of government relations
or the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“While the Conservation Reserve Program has lost some acreage in this Farm Bill, those reductions reflect the current demand for the program on the ground. The bill does include 2 million acres of CRP dedicated for the enrollment of grasslands, something beneficial that has not been included in the past.”

‘Give to the Max Day’ in Minnesota

Today is “Give to the Max Day” in Minnesota, and organizations across the state are asking people to donate to their favorite nonprofit groups and schools.

For hunters and anglers, that means conservation groups such as Pheasants Forever, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association and the Izaak Walton League, among others.

From midnight to 11:59 p.m. today, for example, every donation to the MDHA gives the deer hunting group a chance to receive even more money through $1,000 “Golden Ticket” lottery drawings.

And at the end of the day, one donation from across Minnesota will be randomly selected for a $10,000 Super Sized Golden Ticket, MDHA said in a press release.

“Give to the Max” donations, regardless of the nonprofit, are 100 percent tax deductable.

“I have never liked asking anyone for money, but we need your donations,” Barry Drazkowski, president of the Minnesota Division of the Izaak Walton League of America, said in a statement. “We have a big job today and we cannot do it without your generous support.

“Please consider making a generous donation on Give to the Max Day. … There is no better investment than our children’s future enjoyment of Minnesota’s soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife.”

For more info, go to giveMN.org.

Dalrymple names Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board members

North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple this morning announced his appointment of the first members to the North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund Advisory Board. Members will be officially appointed as of Friday, the governor’s office said in a news release.

Board members will decide how to allocate money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which will receive as much as $30 million per biennium from oil and gas production tax revenues. The funds can be used to support projects such as access to private and public lands for sportsmen, creating fish and wildlife habitats, stewardship toward farming and ranching, enhancing water quality, plant diversity, soil conditions and for outdoor recreation areas.

By law, 10 of the appointed members must represent specific groups, while two members are appointed from the at-large conservation community, the governor’s office said in the news release. The law also names four ex-officio members representing specific agencies.

The 12 voting members of the advisory board will be:

Eric Aasmundstad, Devils Lake (North Dakota Farm Bureau).
Robert Kuylen, South Heart (North Dakota Farmers Union).
Wade Moser, Bismarck (North Dakota Stockmen’s Association).
Dan Wogsland, Bismarck (North Dakota Grain Growers Association).
Blaine Hoffman, Gladstone (North Dakota Petroleum Council).
Jim Melchior, Bismarck (Lignite Energy Council).
Dr. Tom Hutchens, Bismarck (Ducks Unlimited).
Patricia Stockdill, Garrison (Pheasants Forever).
Jon Godfread, Bismarck (Greater North Dakota Chamber).
Randy Bina, Bismarck (North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association).
Dr. Carolyn Godfread, Bismarck (conservation at-large).
Kent Reierson, Williston (conservation at-large).

Ex-officio members of the advisory board will be Terry Steinwand, director of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department; Mark Zimmerman, director of the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department; Larry Kotchman, state forester, and Ronda Vetsch, North Dakota Association of Soil Conservation Districts.

The advisory board will hold its first meeting from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday in the Peace Garden Room of the State Capitol in Bismarck.