Urge Congress to continue valuable conservation programs

The farm bill’s Sept. 30 expiration date is looming. Meanwhile, farmers, ranchers and conservationists anxiously wait for Congress to finish a five-year bill.

Sen. Thad Cochran is currently in Mississippi meeting with constituents, and he must be urged to finish the process and pass a comprehensive 2013 Farm Bill with strong conservation provisions.

A new State of the Birds report shows that farmers, ranchers and other landowners can measure their yield not only in bushels, head and cords, but also in bluebirds, hawks and canvasbacks. Ducks Unlimited strongly supports working farmers and ranchers, and conservation is a vital part of production agriculture that benefits both the landowner and the public.

Roughly 60 percent of the land in the United States is privately owned. Nationwide, more than three quarters of the breeding and wintering habitat for waterfowl is privately owned.

Our nation’s birds serve as a bellwether for our effectiveness as stewards of the land, and the farm bill includes critical conservation programs designed to encourage such stewardship.

Paul Schmidt is the chief conservation officer of Ducks Unlimited, the world’s nonprofit leader in wetlands conservation.