Daily Archives: January 17, 2013

Farm bill’s future tied to upcoming fiscal legislation

A new farm bill likely won’t be marked up until after Congress deals with a host of fiscal- and budget-related issues, top House agriculture lawmakers said January 16. Those include averting across-the-board spending cuts set to take place at the end of February, passing legislation to keep the government funded through the rest of the year and dealing with the debt ceiling.

Before the holidays, House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) had been aiming for a Feb. 27 markup of a new farm bill, which funds conservation and energy initiatives as well as commodity subsidies and the national food stamp program.

“The lay of the land has shifted pretty dramatically in the last few weeks,” Lucas told reporters yesterday. “The challenges, the debt ceiling, [continuing resolution], sequestration coming up at the end of February — that makes it a really complicated time.”

Last year, a version of the bill languished in the House for several months after GOP leaders refused to bring it to a vote. The fiscal cliff deal signed into law at the beginning of this year provided a partial nine-month extension of 2008 legislation, forcing the House and Senate Agriculture committees to begin work this year on a new bill.

“I’ll know when the time is right when my political gut tells me it’s right. And I just can’t give you a better answer than that,” Lucas said when asked to be more specific on a markup date. “We’ve not been playing by the conventional rulebook on legislation for some time, for years now, so I’m just going to have to play it by ear.”

The delay in marking up and passing a farm bill could have devastating consequences, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) warned yesterday.

If work begins after the Congressional Budget Office releases its yearly estimates of what the bill costs, expected in March, the Agriculture committees will likely be dealing with less money from which to base a new bill.

More potentially damaging, Peterson said, would be if Congress or the White House digs into direct payments to look for savings for any of the fiscal-related legislation coming down the pipeline.

Direct payments, included in the farm bill, are subsidies given to farmers regardless of the actual acres that are planted in a given year. The nine-month extension provides $5 billion to continue them this year, and there are growing calls on both sides of the political aisle for using them to provide savings in fiscal legislation, Peterson said.

If the payments are eliminated before a new farm bill is written, that money wouldn’t be available to offset the continuation of other programs in the bill, Peterson warned. Those include energy, conservation, organic and other smaller programs.

“There wouldn’t be an energy title. There wouldn’t be a lot of things,” Peterson said. “I don’t know how you’d pass a bill, because what would happen, I would guess, is that the Republicans would make up for it out of food stamps. And then you’ll get a bill that you can’t conference with the Senate.”

Peterson also said he wasn’t sure he would vote for a farm bill in the first place without a written commitment from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to bring the legislation to a floor vote. On Jan. 3, Peterson sent a frustrated letter to Boehner with such a request and said yesterday that he hadn’t heard anything in response.

While Peterson said yesterday that he wouldn’t necessarily boycott a markup, he added that he “may not be particularly helpful” when it comes to passing the bill.

Last Chance to bag a Fall Turkey

Hunters have the remainder of January to hunt the 2012-2013 fall turkey season

The 2012-2013 fall turkey season is coming to a close, but not before hunters get one last chance to bag their late-season bird. From Jan. 14-31, hunters will have the opportunity to hunt turkey once more in any of the five open units. The next opportunity to hunt turkey won’t come again until the beginning of April, so it’s time to hit the blind one last time!

Fall permit holders can hunt Units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 for fall turkey and may only hunt within the management unit printed on their permits. In addition, hunters must have a Kansas hunting license, unless exempt by law. Any hunter with a fall turkey permit can purchase as many as three turkey game tags during the fall season, valid in Units 2, 3, 5 and 6. During the fall season, both toms and hens may be taken.

The 2013 spring turkey season will begin with the archery, youth/disabled season, April 1-9, and the firearm season will run April 10 – May 31.

A limited number of spring turkey permits are allocated for Unit 4 (southwest Kansas) and will be available through online application. The deadline to apply for a Unit 4 spring turkey permit is Feb. 8, 2013. New this spring season, Unit 4 permits will also be valid in adjacent Units 1, 2 and 5.

2013 Spring turkey permits for Units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are now available for purchase both online or at any vendor location through May 30. In addition to a spring turkey permit, hunters may also purchase one turkey game tag, valid in Units 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6. Hunters can save if they purchase the spring turkey permit/game tag combo, which is only available through March 31. After March 31, permit and game tags can be purchased separately at full price. Each spring permit and game tag allows the harvest of one bearded turkey.

For more information on turkey permits, including spring turkey fees or how to apply for a Unit 4 permit, visitwww.ksoutdoors.com and click “Hunting/Applications and Fees/Turkey.”


Trumpeter swan sightings are both uncommon and unforgettable

Trumpeter swan sightings have been reportedly recently in several Kansas counties, including Neosho,Montgomery, Sedgwick, and Douglas. The largest species of the swan family, trumpeter swans can grow to 60 inches long and have wing spans of nearly 8 feet. These migratory water birds have reportedly been seen on several large ponds and watershed lakes, as well as agricultural fields. Although trumpeter swan sightings are becoming increasingly common, this species was once on the brink of extinction.

In the mid 1800s, market hunters nearly wiped out the species, harvesting the swans for their skins. Skins were sold to companies that then turned them into powder puffs and women’s clothing accessories. It wasn’t until restoration efforts made by states to our north that trumpeter swan numbers began to increase.

“These birds are an excellent conservation success story,” said Ed Miller, nongame biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “They have rebounded from a population low of 73 birds in the U.S.

Although similar in color to the other swan species native to North America, the tundra swan, the trumpeter is larger and has a distinct horn-like call, making it the loudest of all swimming birds. Tundra swans are more numerous than trumpeters, but winter along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and are uncommon visitors in Kansas. Trumpeter swans also have all black bills, unlike tundra swans that have a distinct yellow spot on their bill.

“A 30-pound, long-necked bird with an 8-foot wingspan that moves with grace is a memorable sight,” said Miller. He added that more sightings of this bird are predicted for the near future as trumpeter swan numbers slowly increase.