IWLA Sees Wins and Losses in New Farm Bill (5/20/08)

For Immediate Release

May 20, 2008

Contact:

Brad Redlin, (651) 270-0564, bredlin@iwla.org

Izaak Walton League Sees Wins and Losses in New Farm Bill

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 -- better known as the Farm Bill -- received a veto-proof level of support from Congress last week. The Izaak Walton League’s support for the bill is tempered by some disappointing elements within the massive piece of legislation.

“The bill missed an excellent opportunity to advance conservation through a nationwide Sodsaver program, which would have reduced the loss of America's native prairies,” says Brad Redlin, director of the League’s Agriculture Program. “However, there are some positive components that only exist because the League committed itself to originating policy, working with elected officials, and joining with colleagues to protect America's outdoors.”

One victory is the League-authored reform of the Farm Bill's Conservation Compliance regimen. Conservation Compliance consists of basic conservation requirements that must be met for farms to be eligible for receiving federal subsidies. Excessive erosion from certain fields (the “Sodbuster” regulation) and draining wetlands to plant crops (the “Swampbuster” regulation) result in a farm being ineligible for part or all of its subsidies.

“Conservation Compliance is a means for ensuring that where public money is invested, the public’s interests are protected,” says Redlin. “This is a logical covenant between taxpayers and farmers that, unfortunately, has been poorly administered.” The Government Accountability Office has found, for example, that about 80 percent of the violations issued for draining wetlands and excessive erosion are being waived upon appeal. These waivers result in two negative consequences. First, the objective of protecting soil and wetlands is not being met. Second, federal dollars are being wastefully given to unmerited farm program payment recipients.

“After two years of hard work, we succeeded in placing review requirements for waivers into the Farm Bill,” says Redlin. “No longer will wetland draining and soil erosion citations result in a free pass. Now, farm program and conservation experts can rein in Conservation Compliance waivers.”

The official congressional statement accompanying the Farm Bill highlighted the League-sponsored waiver oversight provision, saying, “[We] believe this approach resolves a long-standing problem and provides for increased oversight of the violation process.”

Redlin adds, “This victory is a great example of how, throughout the Farm Bill reauthorization process, the League has been committed to farm policy that supports prosperity for rural communities and farm families, stewardship of our natural resources, and fairness in the allocation of federal funding. We must ensure this and other positive elements of the Farm Bill are effectively implemented in every state in the nation.”

A point-by-point comparison of the League’s original recommendations to the final results of the 2008 Farm Bill is available online at http://www.iwla.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/1188

 

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Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America's outdoors through community-based conservation, education, and the promotion of outdoor recreation.

 

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