Rob Manes: Finish work on farm bill

09/12/2012 12:00 AM

09/11/2012 6:11 PM

The conservation provisions of the federal farm bill comprise the nation’s single greatest funding source for maintaining healthy lands, waters and wildlife populations.

Most important, the conservation title is good for people – the economies that support their enterprises, the cultures that foster their families and communities, and the wild places that sustain them.

Nowhere is this more true than in Kansas, where farm bill conservation programs help ranchers and farmers provide low-cost, high-quality food; improve their business operations; fuel related industries; and enhance conservation of wild resources.

The farm bill undergirds many government-private partnerships that drive lasting, cost-effective conservation of prairies, wetlands and streams. The Flint Hills, the Gypsum Hills and the Smoky Hills; McPherson Valley, Cheyenne Bottoms and Jamestown wetlands, and many of the state’s remaining pristine rivers and tributaries are among the wild places that showcase the farm bill’s positive impacts.

These conservation programs also support important improvements to water quality and quantity for Wichita, Hutchinson and other Kansas communities. No Kansan is exempted from the benefits.

Early this summer, Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran were part of a visionary and bipartisan U.S. Senate coalition that passed a federal farm bill (Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012) with a fiscally reduced, but still robust, conservation title. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Agriculture Committee passed a similar bill, also on a bipartisan vote.

Passage of that full five-year farm bill promises to continue powerful conservation programs and provide major drought relief that farmers and ranchers need now. Unfortunately, the full House has not yet taken meaningful action to pass a new farm bill and complete that phase of the lawmaking cycle.

When the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30, the flow of essential conservation work to our landscape will begin to dwindle. This is important to all Kansans, and we should urge Congress to finish this work.

ROB MANES

Director

Nature Conservancy of Kansas

Topeka

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