Fall is the favorite season of many Nebraskans, and I can see why. It's hard not to like the time of year when Husker football is in full swing, our farmers are wrapping up their harvests, and the crisp autumn air brings welcome relief from the sweltering summer heat. Our state is truly a wonderful place to be during the fall.
For Nebraska's over 175,000 sportsmen (myself included), it also means that we're in the heart of hunting season. Whether your pursuit is pheasant, quail, turkey, duck, deer, antelope or other, Nebraska's wide ranging ecosystems give our state's hunters opportunities for multiple species without ever having to leave our state. This provides a substantial boost to Nebraska's economy, with hunters and anglers spending $709.1 million on trips, equipment and other related expenditures in Nebraska last year alone.
Just as Nebraska's soil and water resources provide us with a rich habitat for wildlife, these very same resources allow our state to be part of the world's breadbasket. So, as a Governor and Senator, I have strived to find the balance necessary to maintain the integrity of the environment while ensuring that our producers will have the land and water resources they need so Nebraska can continue being a world leader in agriculture.
Key tools towards this end are the conservation provisions included in the Farm Bill.
When talking about the need for the Farm Bill, the focus is on financial security for producers if disaster strikes. However, just as the commodity and crop insurance provisions in the bill are essential to producers' economic security, the conservation provisions are just as essential to producers' production security during a natural disaster.
This summer, Nebraska struggled through drought conditions not seen since the "Dust Bowl," when strong winds blew away topsoil, degrading soil productivity, and harming people's health. Fortunately, Nebraska isn't seeing effects as severe as those following the Dust Bowl, in-part because of conservation provisions currently in place. These provisions allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture, conservationists, and sportsmen to work with producers and landowners towards implementing critical conservation practices, benefitting both working lands and game habitats.
However, all the gains we have made to maintain high quality soil and water in Nebraska are at risk with the expiration of the 2008 Farm Bill.
Fortunately, the Senate has acted. We passed a five-year Farm Bill that cuts $23 billion in spending, provides disaster assistance for farmers, and supports job creation in Nebraska's largest economic sector. The Senate made current policies more efficient, but also more effective -- especially conservation provisions. We consolidated 23 existing conservation programs into 13 while still maintaining tools currently available for land and water protection.
Hopefully the House of Representatives will take action when Congress returns, and pass a five-year Farm Bill so we can ensure that Nebraska continues to enjoy the benefits of both a strong agricultural economy and a healthy and well maintained environment.
Enjoy what is shaping up to be a beautiful autumn, Nebraska, and happy hunting!