Whose Ox Gets Gored?
Around 10 days ago I found myself in Reno, Nev., after having been invited by some conservation groups to discuss and develop recommendations for the conservation part of the upcoming Farm Bill.
Developing a new Farm Bill is one of the current priorities for Congress, and the Senate has already written their version and is waiting on the House doing the same. The Senate version has the 10-year cost projected at $969 billion, a savings of $23.6 billion from the current Farm Bill, and the House wants to cut $33 to $35 billion, so the battle is over whose ox will get gored.
Both the Senate and House leadership want to have the Farm Bill finished by September, a lofty goal in an election year, given how well Congress is getting along these days, plus all of the summer activities and vacations for its members. Some say we’ll be really lucky to have a new Farm Bill by the first of the year. Congressional members from the south so far are not happy with the Senate version, so we know cotton is involved.
The part we discussed in Reno dealt with the conservation part of the Farm Bill, much of which is administered by the Natural Resource Conservation Service. It affects soil, water, crops, livestock and easements. The sponsors of the forum were the Intermountain West Joint Venture, along with Partners for Conservation and the University of Montana, with money from a grant from the Packard Foundation.
The Intermountain West Joint Venture is a group that deals mostly with conservation of bird habitats in the West. It is not an extreme environmental group, but one that recognizes ranchers and farmers, their lands and their sustainability as a vital part of conservation.
There were 28 ranchers who attended the forum, out of 60 total participants, and it was a very comfortable event for those producers who were present. The sage grouse issue was a major topic of discussion, besides the Farm Bill, and one soon realized that Wyoming is the leading state on that issue, as other western states are looking to Wyoming for guidance and a plan to copy. Wyoming clearly is the lead on sage grouse and, to be truthful, Wyoming is also a leader among the western states on a number of other issues. With our positive way of working with others, and just being able to get the job done, we can all be proud of what happens in this state.
From food stamps to peanuts, brucellosis research to nutrition for low-income families, the Farm Bill is huge, with politics all mixed in. There is only so much money, and with the need to save dollars because of our national debt it gets pretty emotional. The big boys are food stamps, crops and corn, cotton and dairy. Then there are the programs like EQIP and WHIP – the conservation programs that producers can use if they wish, which are being condensed into fewer programs. Also, what everyone wants to see is less red tape and fewer forms to fill out, with more technical assistance. The best part is that you can choose whether or not to participate in the programs – either way, it’s your decision.