Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he’s not happy with changes to a U-S-D-A program that pays farmers to take land out of production as a conservation measure. The administration proposal would enroll only 20-percent of the current Conservation Reserve Program acres into long-term 10 to 15 years contracts — giving the rest a two-year or five-year extensions.
Harkin, a Democrat, says he’s not happy with the extensions for some of the C-R-P acres. He says, “Even C-R-P acres that have the lowest environmental benefits, in the bottom 20-percent, are gonna get a two-year extension under this plan. So, again I’m struck that the administration reaffirmed their commitment to filling the full allotment of the C-R-P acres, but they continue to support a capped allotment for the C-S-P program, the Conservation Security Program.”
Harkin says C-R-P extensions shouldn’t be granted without checking out the benefits provided. Harkin says it goes in the opposite direction of the Conservation Security Program where they try to reward farmers for good environmental practices. Harkin says the administration is extending the C-R-P program, yet is cutting back on the C-S-P program. He says, “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Harkin says the changes will likely move forward. He says he may look for some way to address it this fall, but he says the Ag appropriations bill has already passed the Senate and it will be hard to do anything. The C-R-P includes some two million acres of land in Iowa.
On another Ag-related topic, Harkin says he’s introducing an amendment to the defense appropriations bill to dramatically increase the preparations in the U-S for an outbreak of avian flu. He says, “Experts say that an avian flu pandemic is not a question of if, but when. To date, avian flu has killed nearly 50-percent of the people who have become infected. An outbreak in Asia, which experts consider all but inevitable, could trigger a worldwide pandemic.”
Harkin says right now we’re woefully unprepared to handle an outbreak. Harkin says we have enough vaccine to treat less than one-percent of the population in an avian flu outbreak. Harkin says his amendment would address that. He says among other things it would stockpile enough vaccine to treat 40-percent of the population. He says, “We’ve had two disasters in the last four years, 9-1-1 and Katrina, and the federal government was unprepared for both , despite clear warnings. Well, we’ve been given clear warning about avian flu, which would be a disaster many times worse. We need to ramp up now to prevent this pandemic if possible, and to respond to it effectively if necessary.” Harkin says his amendment would increase the global surveilance for the avian flu and bolster the local response to an outbreak.