Policy Action: Quail Forever Pushes for Voluntary Public Access

73737788-91b0-4d6a-a994-b9f42c277517 Quail Forever met with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and advocated for a robust CRP component as well as public access in the 2018 Farm Bill. Shown above from left: Jim Inglis and Howard Vincent of Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever, Secretary Perdue, and Bethany Erb and Dave Nomsen of Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.

January was a busy and important month for conservation policy action in D.C.

Quail Forever worked with conservation partners and Senators Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Steve Daines (Montana) to introduce a marker bill for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). This marker bill reauthorizes the Voluntary Public Access program in the Farm Bill at $150 million over the next five years (up from $40 million in the last farm bill). 

A marker bill introduces specific measures or issues into a larger legislative debate, in this case, the 2018 Farm Bill.

Quail Forever believes this marker bill provides a solid platform to push for strong funding for this program to provide more walk-in access in all the quail and pheasant states. Public access is a cornerstone of the Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever missions.
 
Then Quail Forever jumped right back into the mix on Capitol Hill. President and CEO Howard Vincent flew to D.C. to meet with new Minnesota Senator Tina Smith, who was also appointed to the Senate Agriculture Committee. 

Howard then joined the Government Affairs team for an important meeting with U.S.D.A. Secretary Sonny Perdue (see photo at top). During our meeting with the Secretary we discussed the upcoming Farm Bill, the current status of CRP enrollment, and the importance of VPA-HIP to the hunting and conservation communities.
 
The current Farm Bill expires in September of 2018. House and Senate members are beginning to discuss legislative language and have introduced several marker bills, such as the VPA-HIP initiative. The calendar is tight with many other legislative priorities, but we remain optimistic Congress will authorize a new Farm Bill in 2018.

Also, the following appeared in Representative Collin Peterson’s January newsletter. Peterson is a key member of the House Agriculture Committee:

I met with Dave Nomsen of Pheasants Forever to discuss CRP reforms in the farm bill. We talked about the importance of increasing acres for the program and how to do it in a budget-neutral way. The CRP is an important conservation and wildlife habitat program that benefits many Minnesota producers. I am committed to simplifying the program, bringing more acres into the program, and making it more easily accessible for farmers.

YOU make a difference in these conservation priorities! We still need your calls into Washington to advocate for a strong conservation title and an increase in CRP cap to meet farmer and landowner demand. Call your legislators today and let them know!

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