Ag Policy Blog

Conservation Programs Highlighted at Illinois Listening Session

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Conservation buffer strips touted under USDA conservation programs help reduce erosion, protect water quality and improve wildlife habitat.

The importance of the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to help Illinois farmers reduce the nutrient loads that are considered a pollutant in the Gulf of Mexico were highlighted numerous timesWednesday at the House Agriculture Committee listening session on the next farm bill.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, chaired the session at Richland Community College in Decatur, Ill.

Other members who attended the session included House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; and Reps. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., Mike Bost, R-Ill., Darin LaHood, R-Ill., Cheri Bustos, D-Ill., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa.

Farmers testified repeatedly that the NRCS programs are vital to reducing the nutrient load that goes into the Mississippi River and is believed to cause hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico. The farmers noted that Illinois has invested millions of dollars in trying to address the issue and does not want the effort to stop now.

Other attendees repeated statements from the other listening sessions supporting crop insurance, making the commodity programs better able to deal with sustained periods of low prices, and in favor of keeping the foreign market development programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commodity distribution programs for food banks and the development of a vaccine bank against animal diseases.

One witness suggested cutting the organic program to pay for the vaccine bank, but an organic farmer objected to that proposal.

Conaway ended the session by repeating his previous comments that his highest priority in the farm bill is to continue producing food as cheaply as possible for the lowest 20 percent of earners in the United States.

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Conaway also said he was deputizing the attendees to take a message to the general public that nothing should be done in the farm bill to raise the cost of food.

“Farmer and ranchers and SNAP recipients and everyone who eats should be an advocate” for getting the farm bill done, Conaway said. He also repeated his frequent concerns that the country is losing its moral character.

A video of the full session can be viewed at: http://www.ustream.tv/…

Perdue announces RV tour, Forest Service chief swearing-in ceremony

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is traveling to Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire Thursday and Friday for the second “Back to Our Roots” tour, to gather input on the 2018 farm bill and to swear in the new U.S. Forest Service chief.

Perdue, joined by Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, both Connecticut Democrats, will hold a listening session with 40 farmers at 11:45 a.m. Thursday at Prides Corner Farms, Lebanon, Conn.

After that session, Perdue will travel to Massachusetts for a Farm Bureau listening session at 2:30 p.m. at the Davidian Brothers Farm in Northborough, Mass. The session will include Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Massachusetts Agriculture Commissioner John Lebeaux.

At 8:20 a.m. Friday, Perdue and New Hampshire Agriculture Commissioner Lorraine Stuart Merrill will tour the L?f Hydroponic Farm in Loudon, N.H.

At 11 a.m. Friday, Perdue will host a listening session with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, at Wolefeboro Town Hall at Wolfeboro, N.H.

At 3 p.m. Friday, Perdue will swear in U.S. Forest Service Chief Tony Tooke at the Pemigewasset Overlook on the Kancamagus Highway in Albany, N.H.

USDA also released a wrapup video of Perdue’s first Back to Our Roots tour.

For social media purposes, Perdue’s Twitter account (@SecretarySonny) will use the hashtag #BackToOurRoots.

https://www.youtube.com/…

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