Congressman Simpson was pleased to see the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) withdraw its proposed regulation that would have prohibited young people under age 16 from working on farms and issued the following statement.
"I am relieved that common sense prevailed. The proposed rule would have transformed the way of life for thousands of family farms and ranches across the country, including many in Idaho. The overreaching and misguided rule would also have threatened the ability of America's youth to contribute to their family's farm and restricted families from passing on the generational knowledge and the hands-on learning that is so critical to the survival of the agricultural industry.
I grew up moving pipe and breaking ground for new crops. It was a time in my life that I consider very significant, and working on farms taught me the value of hard work and persistence. I want to make sure today's youth have the same opportunities that I had growing up, part of which is being able to work, save money, and go to college. Jobs in agriculture provide these opportunities and need to be preserved. Members of the Idaho agricultural community that contacted my office and the Department of Labor to voice their strong opposition to this rule should be commended for their efforts to ensure that Idaho's way of life is preserved."
Earlier this year Simpson signed a letter to Secretary Solis expressing his disapproval of the proposed rule. He was also a cosponsor of H.R. 4157, the Preserving America's Family Farms Act, that would have blocked the DOL from finalizing the proposed regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act that relate to on-farm youth labor.
Chairman Simpson Questions BLM Director on Sage Grouse, Grazing
Congressman Mike Simpson took issue with proposals to cut BLM range management funding in the President's FY13 budget request during a hearing on the BLM's budget proposal in the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee in March. Simpson chairs the subcommittee, which oversees BLM's budget. In addition to expressing his concern about budget cuts to the grazing program, he focused on the BLM's sage grouse conservation initiative.
The BLM has struggled under a huge grazing permit backlog over the past decade. In order to permanently reduce this backlog and provide the BLM with the tools it needs to use its resources for effective land management, the FY 2012 BLM budget included a significant increase for rangeland management. In spite of BLM's efforts to address the grazing permit backlog within the next few years, the FY 2013 request cuts that budget by $15 million.
"I'm very disappointed with the proposed decrease in range management. Back in 2009, we talked about the importance of permanently reducing the backlog of grazing permits, which has been a problem at the BLM for years. Now the BLM has gone from completing 84% of the grazing permits for renewal in 2009 to only planning to complete 33% in fiscal year 2013," said Simpson. "This is simply irresponsible. While I understand the workload of permit renewals fluctuates from year to year, this level of completion is inexcusable, particularly given this subcommittee's focus on the issue.
"Further," he continued, "the budget proposes to add a new grazing fee, which would increase what ranchers pay now by 74%--violating the current mandate that says the fee can't be raised by more than 25% a year. There is a good reason for this mandate. Livestock producers, just like other small businesses, need certainty--they need to know their grazing permits will be renewed in a timely fashion and that fees won't dramatically increase from year to year. Despite the fact that range management is a large part of BLM's responsibilities, and that state and local offices in Idaho and other areas have stepped up to address these challenges in spite of major hurdles thrown their way, it doesn't seem to be a priority for this budget."
Chairman Simpson also expressed his concern about the possibility of sage grouse being listed as an endangered species. He pressed Director Abbey about the BLM's sage grouse conservation strategy and whether it will be effective in preventing a listing.
Simpson commended BLM for taking a proactive approach on the conservation of the sage grouse and reflecting this priority in the proposed budget. "That said, I want to make sure this investment will actually improve sage grouse habitat and prevent the species from being listed in 2015, which would be devastating across the West," he said. "Now more than ever we need to see a return on this investment, not just waste this funding on planning exercises that don't help us reach our goal. Some of the greatest threats to the sage grouse are invasive weeds and wildfire. How will this investment be used to control cheat grass, for example, and prevent fires that destroy sage grouse habitat? Preventing this listing is a top priority for me, and it will require close partnership between federal agencies, states, and local land users. We have to get this one right."
Director Abbey committed to doing everything possible to prevent a sage grouse listing, pointing to work already being done with states and stakeholders to identify and implement best management practices. He noted that the greatest threat to sage grouse is fire and indicated that the bureau is working to prevent and suppress wildfires in core habitat areas.
Simpson's Statement on Court Decision Upholding Wolf Delisting Language
Congressman Mike Simpson issued the following statement following the decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to affirm the district court's decision to uphold legislation barring judicial review of the delisting of wolves in Idaho and Montana.
"I'm pleased to see the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals uphold my wolf delisting language. Continued efforts to put wolves back on the endangered species list simply don't hold up in light of the robust wolf populations in Idaho and the effective state management plans in place in Idaho and Montana. This case has made it clear that those who persist in trying to manage wildlife through the courts, in spite of all scientific evidence that this species has recovered, no longer have a defensible position. Now that this case is settled, the state can continue to move forward in implementing a long-term solution to wolf management that serves the best interests of Idahoans and those whose true goal is a sustainable wolf population in the Rocky Mountain west."
Congressman Simpson, who chairs the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, included language in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution directing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue its decision to delist wolves in Idaho and Montana. Simpson's language prevented the decision from being overturned by the courts, as it was in 2010.
Chairman Simpson Talks Wolves, Invasive Species during Fish and Wildlife Budget Hearing
Congressman Mike Simpson questioned Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe regarding invasive species and wolves. The Director testified to the House Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, which Simpson chairs, regarding the agency's FY13 budget request during a hearing in March.
"In Idaho it is difficult to think of the Fish and Wildlife Service without thinking first and foremost of threatened and endangered species," Simpson said at the beginning of the hearing. "Whether it's to save snails or slickspot peppergrass, the last thing Idahoans want is the federal government telling them what they can't do on their own land or otherwise disrupting a sustainable way of life they've known for generations. There has got to be a better way to properly balance recovery with people's livelihoods."
Simpson questioned the agency regarding funding for wolf management in Idaho and Montana. Last year Simpson included language in the FY11 continuing resolution that directed the Service to reissue an earlier decision to remove wolves in those states from the endangered species list. Simpson aims to ensure that the states of Idaho and Montana have adequate funding to defray the costs of ESA requirements to monitor wolf populations for five years post-delisting.
Chairman Simpson also raised the issue of quagga and zebra mussels, which pose a serious threat to water infrastructure in Idaho. In FY12, the subcommittee allocated $1 million in the Fish and Wildlife Service budget for mandatory inspections and decontaminations at infested federally-managed water bodies, which the Director indicated would be focused on preventing boats at infested Lake Mead from spreading into Idaho and other western states.
"I'm also concerned that when I meet with stakeholders who do invasive species work on the ground, they complain that very little of the money that is appropriated for these purposes actually gets on the ground," said Simpson. "I recognize that this is not necessarily a Fish and Wildlife Service issue; I'm talking about invasive species funding across the board, much of which is in the Department of Interior or USDA. This subcommittee intends to focus on invasive species in general and how we are spending that money, because ultimately we want the money on the ground, addressing the problem."
Simpson Continues to Support the Beef and Wheat Industries
Demonstrating his support of lean, finely textured beef (LFTB), Congressman Simpson recently signed a letter to the USDA requesting their continued support of LFTB. In the letter, Congressman Simpson asked the USDA to correct the public record and continue educating the public on the safety of LFTB. Simpson also recently signed a letter directed to USDA-ARS supporting research on wheat stem sawflies, which are significantly reducing wheat yields in a large portion of the United States, including Idaho. Simpson asked the USDA to put a high priority on research to mitigate this problem before it becomes debilitating to our nation's supply of wheat.
2012 Farm Bill Update from Congressman Simpson
On Friday, May 18, the House Agriculture Committee finished hearings for the 2012 Farm Bill. As expected, the biggest challenge facing the Committee and industry are budget constraints. Like every industry, agriculture will face some budget cuts as part of necessary budget reduction efforts, but Congressman Simpson will work to ensure that agriculture does not bear a disproportionate share of that burden.
Simpson continues to work with the Idaho Dairymen's Association and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Colin Peterson on the Dairy Security Act of 2011, as it serves as a blueprint for the dairy portion of the farm bill. This is an industry effort to provide producers with security to prevent devastating losses when milk prices drop and feed costs are high while giving them added flexibility to manage risk.
The next Farm Bill must reflect the diversity across the country, respect the challenges producers face, and preserve the tools necessary for food production. As the legislative process continues, your continued input is vital to our efforts. It's imperative that Congress passes a farm bill that provides the confidence and stability necessary for producers in the field.