I am a fiscal conservative. The passage of Obamacare made me physically ill; overnight I switched my automotive allegiance to Ford due to its rejection of taxpayer dollars; and I gnash my teeth every time I see one of those “Your Stimulus Dollars At Work” signs at construction sites—do you know how much those darn things cost?
So I can sympathize with the plight of the Tea Party and other conservative groups. Government spending has jeopardized our children’s financial futures and shaken our very confidence in America. Government programs, perhaps even entire departments, warrant cuts.
This includes the Farm Bill, the current form of which is expected to hit the Senate floor next week. If passed, its overall budget will encompass several billion dollars less than in its prior form. That’s reasonable; the economy demands it. However, the complete, uncompromising opposition the Farm Bill faces from many conservative groups is unfortunate, misguided and bad for wildlife and sportsmen alike.
There are several measures within the Farm Bill of benefit to sportsmen and wildlife, one of which is perhaps the greatest conservation achievement since the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act: The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Essentially CRP encourages farmers to plant the most productive areas of their properties and leave the rest as grassland for wildlife. Farmers apply for a certain amount of CRP acres and in turn receive money to leave it unplanted. If not for CRP dollars, farmers would simply maximize the value of their land by planting nearly every inch. And ducks and pheasants can’t nest or roost in corn.
(Poll: Do you support the Farm Bill?)
What’s the payoff for wildlife? An additional 2.2 million ducks and 15 million pheasants annually, according to Delta Waterfowl. CRP has also protected more than 170,000 miles of streams and restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands and adjacent buffers—wetlands that clean our water, mitigate flooding, provide habitat for wildlife and fish, and more.
But what about CRP’s financial investment? At a time when our nation feels on the verge of bankruptcy, should we really worry about a few birds?
According to Pheasants Forever (PF), CRP is a $1.9 billion investment that contributes 2-3 times as much money back into the economy. The economic impact of pheasant hunting in the state of South Dakota alone is estimated at $253 million annually, according to PF. And the dollars spent by sportsmen appear to have a direct correlation to CRP acreage. PF data shows that as the number of acres enrolled in CRP goes up, so too do hunting license sales. So, more CRP doesn’t just mean more pheasants, it means more pheasant hunters.
CRP is good for wildlife, sportsmen and the economy. Its opposition is disappointing.