U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) today introduced the Farmer and Hunter Protection Act to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from unfairly penalizing farmers and sportsmen for rolling their fields during hunting season.
During the summer of 2012, weather conditions in the Southeast caused some harvested rice fields to re-head, creating accidental second growth crops. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may now view these second growth crops that have been rolled as baited fields, even though this practice was recommended by local cooperative extension services as a way to return nutrients to the soil. Inadvertent baiting of a field can level a fine of up to $100,000 for a farmer, $15,000 for a hunter, and prohibit hunting on the land.
"It's inexcusable that the Fish and Wildlife Service may force our farmers and hunters to pay a fine for a long-standing agricultural practice," Pryor said. "This irresponsible action would not only harm our families' way of life, it would negatively impact hunting season--which is a huge driver of economic activity in Arkansas. Our common-sense bill will resolve this issue and ensure the rights of Arkansans are protected."
"This is a common, recommended agriculture practice Arkansas farmers have followed for generations. Threatening to penalize our farmers for this normal procedure is bad policy that will have a lasting impact on the industry in addition to the sportsmen who use the land. Allowing state cooperative extension offices the ability to determine what is acceptable is a commonsense solution," Boozman said.
"This is an example of a regulatory process gone wrong. Farmers and hunters, who follow recommended land management practices, should not be subjected to unfair and costly penalties," Cochran said.
"Sportsman's Paradise is not just a slogan on our license plates; it's a way of life in Louisiana. By unfairly fining farmers and hunters for tried and true techniques, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services would make sportsmen, hunters, and farmers the next endangered species. As someone who enjoys hunting, I know how important the hunting season is in Louisiana. The last thing our hunters and farmers need is senseless and ridiculous regulations ahead of this year's hunting season," said Landrieu.
The Farmer and Hunter Protection Act would allow each state's cooperative extension service to distinguish between normal agriculture practices and baiting.