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Conservation part of farm bill conversation

During a policy forum, groups present ideas about the upcoming measure.

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Posted: Thursday, June 7, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 5:54 am, Thu Jun 7, 2012.

Two main suggestions were offered to the individuals present who hope to have a say in federal farm bill policy:

Develop a coalition of conservational interests, and start the dialogue as soon as possible.

Representatives from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Izaak Walton League of America hosted a farm conservation tour and farm bill policy forum on Wednesday. The group toured conservation projects on area farms, then returned to the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium for a presentation and roundtable discussion.

Attendees were urged to make their voices heard by state and federal government, and they were told the best way to achieve that was by creating a coalition of organizations and thinking ahead to the next farm bill.

"We want to have an impact on the next farm bill, frankly," said Tim Kizer, of the Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. "We want to be a catalyst for that type of coalition to work on this next farm bill."

The last federal farm bill was passed in 2008, and a new version is on Congress' agenda this summer. It will likely be implemented for another four or five years.

Members of organizations such as Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, the Dubuque County Soil & Water Conservation District and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources -- among others -- attended Wednesday's event. So did aides from the offices of Iowa's area congressional contingent -- Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Bruce Braley.

Gwen Steel, of the Izaak Walton League, stressed it's not too late to give up hope of having an impact on the current farm bill. The Senate is debating its version; the House has yet to draft a bill. But she reiterated Kizer's stance that motivated parties can truly bring about desired change down the road if they start now.

"Working on the next farm bill doesn't start in 2016. It starts today," Steel said. "Make sure those conversations keep happening."

Steven Kline, also of the Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and a federal lobbyist, expressed support of the Senate's version of the farm bill. The House is reportedly looking to introduce more cuts in its version.

"I think the Senate will produce a bill we can support. I'm not sure what the House is going to do. I'm not sure the House knows what it's going to do," Kline said. "It's really difficult to see how (the Senate) farm bill could be better. It's very easy to see how it could be worse."

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