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Conference Report on H.R. 2419, Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008

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Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2419, FOOD, CONSERVATION, AND ENERGY ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 14, 2008)

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Mr. HALL of New York. I thank the chairman for his prior support of a muck soils conservation program. Unfortunately, this House language did not survive in conference.

Existing programs like CREP do not address the needs of muck farmers, like the black dirt farmers in Orange County, New York. In the Hudson Valley, this has led to full retirement of soil and rent inflation.

The needs that would have been addressed in the House bill remain. Proposed administrative changes in future CREP contracts will not address impacts of contracts that are in place today and will be for several years. These are ongoing challenges for farmers in my district and throughout the northeast, growers of specialty crops and producers of muck crops who have been thrice underserved by previous farm bills.

Again, I thank the chairman and ask if he would be willing to continue working with USDA on solutions that will meet conservation goals and address unintended economic consequences of existing programs.

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Mr. HALL of New York. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman and congratulate him on successfully bringing this conference report to the floor after many months of hard work and committed effort. I also thank him for his prior support for inclusion of a muck soils conservation program to address serious challenges being faced by the farmers in my district and throughout the country. Although such language was included in the version of this bill passed by the House, it was unfortunately not able to survive the conference negotiations.

Currently available conservation programs have shown that they do not specifically address the needs of farmers who produce crops

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on muck soil. The existing Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, CREP, seeks to prevent erosion and protect water quality through a voluntary retirement program. In areas like the Hudson Valley, this has created unintended consequences including the full retirement of productive soil and inflationary pressures on rental rates.

The program included in section 2303 of the House version of the bill, which would have sought to meet conservation goals with practices that would also keep these lands active and address local rent pressures, will not become law as part of this bill, but the needs it was meant to address remain. Similarly, efforts to make changes in future CREP contracts at the administrative level will not address the rent inflation that has been created in places like Orange County, NY, by contracts that are in place today and will have standing for several years.

The issues of unintended land retirement and rent inflation are ongoing challenges for farmers in my district, who as farmers in the Northeast, growers of specialty crops, and producers of muck land crops have been thrice underserved by previous farm bills.

The chairman has been extraordinarily understanding and supportive of efforts to address these challenges. Again, I thank him for his efforts and ask if he would be willing to continue our work on this issue and to work with USDA on solutions that will meet the conservation goals of farmers on muck soils and address the unintended economic consequences of existing programs.

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