By Chris Wood
The next time you're fishing your favorite local trout stream, or enjoying birds singing in a nearby wetland, or, for that matter, drinking a glass of clean water - thank the Farm Bill.
The Farm Bill is best known for school lunch programs and helping farmers during drought. But if you fish or hunt, it has almost certainly improved your chances for success by restoring millions of acres of habitat and protecting water quality all across America. That's why all who fish, hunt or care about clean drinking water should contact their members of Congress today and urge them to pass the Farm Bill.
Across our country, the Farm Bill's conservation programs help fund innovative, cooperative projects that enhance our streams, wetlands and wildlife habitat while benefiting agricultural producers' bottom lines. These programs encourage partnerships and collaboration among farmers and ranchers, conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited and state agencies to restore and enhance our nation's soil and water and also promote best agricultural practices.
Today, we need these programs more than ever to upgrade our nation's aging dams and leaky irrigation infrastructure, which often damage watershed health, degrade aquatic habitat and impact our fishing. In these tough economic times, these projects create high-paying, family-wage jobs and help support the nation's multibillion-dollar recreation economy as well as rural communities.
The Farm Bill allows conservation organizations, local communities and farmers and ranchers to improve habitat for fish and wildlife while also improving agricultural productivity.
Unfortunately, these great conservation advances are in danger of being lost. The leadership of the House of Representatives has failed to make this crucial legislation a priority. Without immediate action, the Farm Bill will expire on Sept. 30.
Bipartisan legislation has already passed the Senate and the House Agriculture Committee. The House's failure to reauthorize the Farm Bill would create an atmosphere of uncertainty in farm and ranch country that discourages infrastructure investment and undermines any promise for a coherent, long-term conservation strategy.
Yes, this is an election year, but that's no excuse for the House of Representatives to let hundreds of worthy projects and billions of dollars' worth of economic activity literally wither on the vine. Americans want to know that our leaders can still work together in the national interest to safeguard our soil and water and create rural jobs.
Tell your congressional delegation to support the Farm Bill's conservation title, one of America's best ideas.
Chris Wood is president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, America's leading cold-water conservation organization.