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Great Lakes Article:

Senate repairs nation’s most popular wetlands program
By Neil Shader
Ducks Unlimited
Posted January 15, 2008

MADISON, Wis. – January 14, 2008 – The Wetlands Reserve Program, the nation’s leading wetlands restoration program, received much-needed leadership in the Senate recently. Sen. Herb Kohl (Wis.) took the lead to amend language in the Farm Bill, correcting an administrative issue that undercut WRP’s appeal to farmers and ranchers. The change adds a strong negotiating position for WRP as the Farm Bill goes to conference, the final step before being sent to the President.

“The Wetlands Reserve Program is the nation’s leading wetlands program, but it was being undermined by the appraisal issue,” said Sen. Kohl. “This amendment should get the program back on track and help farmers conserve their marginal cropland across the country.”

The appraisal process for the Wetlands Reserve Program changed in 2006. The revised valuation process dramatically lowered offers to landowners. As a result, enrollment in the program dropped dramatically across the country. In Sen. Kohl’s home state of Wisconsin, enrollment dropped from 3,000 acres in 2005, to only 30 in 2006. In Mississippi, a state with some of the greatest needs to restore wetlands, enrollment dropped from 8,400 acres in 2005, to zero in 2006.

Sen. Kohl’s language to correct the appraisal problem was part of a larger manager’s amendment, and should begin to correct the appraisal issue.

“DU would like to commend Sen. Kohl for stepping in to ensure that the nation’s most successful wetlands program remains a viable option for landowners,” said DU Director of Public Policy for the Great Lakes and Atlantic Region, Gildo Tori. “Senator Kohl’s leadership on this issue has been paramount to making sure that farmers can continue enrolling marginal cropland and help improve water quality, flood control, aquifer rehabilitation and wildlife habitat.”

The Farm Bill now moves to the conference committee, where select lawmakers from the House and Senate will iron out the differences between the bills passed by the two chambers.  The conference committee will also have to contend with the renewed veto threat from President Bush in addition to the very different versions of the bill.  Ducks Unlimited will continue to advocate for improvements to private land conservation programs that not only benefit farmers and ranchers, but the general public and waterfowl as well.



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