Ep. 507 – Ducks, Farmers, and Partners in the Farm Bill

00:00 Mike Brasher Welcome back everyone. I'm Dr. Mike Brasher. I'm going to be your host on this episode. We cover a lot of topics on this podcast, conservation, science, hunting, collecting, all sorts of stuff. One of the topics that is absolutely crucial to the work that Ducks Unlimited does, but we haven't featured a whole lot of, a lot of people kind of think it's boring, but we're going to prove that, prove that's a myth. And it's, it's about policy. It's the role that policy plays in, in our conservation mission. And the discussion today, policy discussion is very, very important. It's timely. And I have two people in studio here with me to, to discuss this. We're going to be talking about the farm bill and it's up for renewal. And there's some absolutely crucial conversations that we want to, we want to share with you, the audience. And to help me with that is Zach Hartman, our chief policy officer here at National Headquarters. Zach, welcome back.

00:59 Zach Hartman Thanks, Mike. It's great to be back at the DU podcast.

01:02 Mike Brasher You've been on with us once before. I learned just a few minutes ago. I was thinking it was actually more than that. But, but I will say that the, the episodes, we've had two policy episodes before. That's, that was my confusion. I was going back kind of through the record of what all we had talked about policy wise and we'd done two of them. You were on just one of those, but those episodes have actually proven to be very valuable or very, very interesting to our audience. And I think that speaks a lot to the, and the quality of the audience, the interest level that our audience has in learning about the, this aspect of what Ducks Unlimited does that, that I'm sure people, a lot of, a lot of people have heard, heard it said that you can affect a lot of acres for good or bad with the stroke of a pen. And that's fundamentally about what, what this conversation is about, right?

01:48 Zach Hartman That's right, Mike. And I'm not surprised because we do have a really great audience. So of course they're interested in policy that affects Ducks Unlimited, but our volunteers and our listeners and waterfowlers across the United States, they work really hard to invest in the landscape and invest in Ducks Unlimited and the mission that we deliver. And some of our most important partners are those government agencies. And so it's really important what they decide to do. And that includes USDA. And that's why I'm so excited that we have one of the leaders of our DC team, our director of agriculture and sustainability policy, Julia Peebles is with us today to talk about all the great work that she and all of our policy volunteers have been doing on the farm bill this year. And we're coming right up on it and it'll be here before we know it.

02:37 Julia Peebles Yeah, thanks, Zach. It's great to be here. And DU's headquarters flying in from the nation's capital this morning. So happy to be here. And thank you, Mike, for hosting.

02:47 Mike Brasher Julia, I want to give you an opportunity to introduce yourself to our audience. Zach, we had you introduce yourself the last time you were on. So tell us where you come from. How long have you been with DU? How did you make your way into the policy arena?

03:01 Julia Peebles Yeah, so I'm originally from Indiana, Muncie, Indiana, if there's folks out there listening. So shout out to them. But I've been with DU for about two years now. So you're just like it's been longer than that. Well, time flies. Yeah, it's crazy.

03:17 Mike Brasher I've heard your name a lot. So that tells me that you've been super busy and super productive in what you're doing.

03:22 Julia Peebles Yeah, I think right when I started July of two years ago, I mean, I hit the ground running just talking about farm bill and working with our conservation delivery team to identify what are the policy priorities that we need for the farm bill. So that was a huge chunk of what I needed to do. But yeah, originally from Indiana, grew up hunting and fishing in my pastime more with probably upland. So grew up with English setters. We ended up breeding some English setters. So for my 16th birthday, I got a little puppy. I ended up training her with my dad. So it's a good bonding opportunity for my dad and I. And, you know, moving forward, you know, even with my my in-laws, they're big avid hunters and anglers, even more so than my than my family. They go, you know, to South Dakota to go pheasant hunting and we go down to the Gulf to go for red snapper fishing too. So it's part of our tradition and our family that carries on most of our vacations revolve around hunting and fishing. Our dads might end up scheduling a hunt without us knowing for me and my husband, which is pretty funny. Or they go hunting without us knowing and just do their own thing. So again, it's very inbredded in me. And then for the policy side of it, that's more of my mom's side where my grandfather, he was a lobbyist in D.C. And so I grew up knowing kind of the ins and outs of what he did. And I gained traction of what I wanted to do. So moved to D.C., got into policy, worked on Capitol Hill. And then, you know, once I worked on Capitol Hill, I had the opportunity to kind of dive into the NGO world with conservation, the Hook and Bullet crowd with my first job at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. And so I've been in this community for about nine years now and I love every second of it.

05:08 Mike Brasher How much of an advantage do you think it gives you to come from that hunting and fishing background, especially when we're talking about the type of policies, the way we view those policies for how they benefit fish and wildlife? Do you feel that you're in a really strong position given your personal experience and connection to that?

05:29 Julia Peebles Absolutely. I think what you see on the ground, if you're in the field, you know, hunting pheasant, if you're in a blind waterfowl hunting, if you're in a deer stand, you see how these animals survive. You see how where they need their food source. It's I think it gives me a huge advantage on the fish and wildlife portion of what I do in the ag

05:49 Mike Brasher community, for sure. So you've been in D.C. two years. So, right, two years.

05:54 Julia Peebles Yeah, well, I've been in D.C. for about 10 years.

05:56 Mike Brasher You've been in D.C. 10 years. So how many farm bills have you worked on before?

06:00 Julia Peebles This is my my first one as my soul. I mean, obviously we have our team with our volunteers and our leadership, but me leading the charge is this is my first one.

06:08 Zach Hartman We were really excited. And look, it was really hard for D.U. to find just the right person for this job. But when I met Julia, I knew that she was it. And I can't tell you what a great job she's done. She has made so many great relationships with the ag community and really doing an incredible job of being an ambassador for Ducks Unlimited and the way that our work benefits agriculture, agribusinesses and rural communities. And the results are showing in the progress that we've been making so far on a lot of these important policies that you talked about.

06:42 Mike Brasher USDA is obviously a partner in the farm bill. USDA has also become a stronger partner, I guess you would say, Julia, and a couple of things or one thing that you and I have been working with them on, and that's working with USDA AFIS around some of the highly pathogenic avian influenza conversations. That's how you and I have interacted and I guess most recently. And I've seen you work there. I've seen seen the great great relationships that you have and that you've been able to help us develop. So I can understand Zach's excitement in being able to attract you. I appreciate that. She's a great part of the team. Let's move to the farm bill. I would imagine the vast majority of everybody listening to this is familiar with the farm bill, knows generally what it is. Hopefully they understand why we place such great value on it as a piece of legislation for helping us advance our mission. But, Julia, for those that that might have just sort of a beginning level understanding of the farm bill, take us through a brief history of it, you know, what it is. It includes way more than conservation. I'm sure that's going to be a necessary part of this. But give people that that kind of introduction to the farm bill when it started. And and then we can talk about like when the conservation title was introduced.

07:57 Julia Peebles You just kind of tell us about it. Yes, I'll just start with a brief history and kind of go, you know, chronological of where we are today. So when the farm bill was founded and established, it's a very similar timeline to Ducks Unlimited's founding. So it was established during Great Depression era with the Dust Bowl, where a lot of farmers and ranchers were being displaced from their land because soil erosion, things weren't growing, natural disasters like drought. So FDR created this great this new deal that included a portion of it, the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which, you know, was mainly focused on making sure that these these farmers and these ranchers, these landowners weren't losing their land. So it helped them subsidize. But there is also a conservation component, in my opinion, because with that soil erosion and that topsoil being just turned into dust, you know, there was that soil fertility piece of it. And that's the soil health that we still work on today. So, you know, fast forward to giving the reassurance for for commodity programs. So since 1970s, it expanded a little bit more outside of just commodity operations. So conservation became a piece of that. And they started expanding to supply for, you know, make sure that the whole from the beginning to the end, the whole food supply chain was was helped. So and then fast forward to 1985, which I think was the most notable for conservation when they decided to set aside land that was highly erodible land for soil conservation. And that's what we know today as CRP, the Conservation Reserve Program. Again, fast forward more like when conservation first had its own title, it was really like Title 11, I believe. And now it's Title 2. I know in legislation you can move it anywhere that you want. But I think that resonates a lot of showing the importance of it because you have commodities as Title 1 if you get a little technical and then Title 2 is conservation. So I might reference that a little bit in this episode. But the Farm Bill is the largest source of funding for conservation on private lands. And private lands are 60 percent of the of the land in the U.S. And, you know, majority of wetlands are on private lands. So I think that's very important for what we do. And today, I think it's around 140 million acres are enrolled into conservation programs at this point with the upcoming Farm Bill. And to put that in perspective, that's a combination of California and New York combined.

10:18 Mike Brasher So that's that's a lot of land working on. Julia, you mentioned you mentioned 60 percent of the U.S. is privately owned. I was looking up that statistic earlier. And any time you're trying to estimate a value like that, you're going to get a few different numbers. I actually saw something that cited 70 percent of the U.S. is privately owned. So it's 60, 70, somewhere in that range. But it's greater than half, obviously. And and I'm glad you pointed that out, because we get questions a lot of time about why we work on private land or what our private land consists of and what our conservation on private land consists of. And I think some people would like to see us do all of our work on public land. We get that occasionally. But the fact of the matter is, and the waterfowl conservation community and all act matter of fact, fish and wildlife conservation communities in North America realized a number of years ago that if you want to have a meaningful impact on these fish and wildlife populations, especially migratory bird populations, you absolutely have to work on private land. You cannot do it all on public land. So we always remind people of that. And this, as you said, is the signature piece of legislation, the signature set of conservation programs that affects private lands. It's I remember I was in college in the early 90s and the farm bill had was five, seven, eight years in existence. Well, the conservation title of the farm. So in my world, I was going to say, you used kindly in my world when I say farm bill, 90 percent of the time I'm talking about the conservation title of the farm bill. But that just shows how ubiquitous of a term that has become within the wildlife conservation field. And it was it's just a testament to the importance and value of the legislation.

12:15 Zach Hartman So it certainly is, Mike. And Julia brushed up against this, but it's important for our listeners to remember that. And you're the scientist. So you can confirm this 70 percent or more of all wetlands in the United States are on private or tribal lands. And so if we're not working with those landowners to conserve those wetlands, if we're not working with those landowners to have the right water quality programs, the right nutrient management programs and soil health programs on that lands, they'll inevitably become degraded in one way or another. And nobody wants that. So we're not ducks unlimited, not farmers, not ranchers. Julia is working with private landowners and their representatives at trade associations and ag groups to make sure that we're all working together to create the right tools that they need to be the best stewards of those lands. And that's a value. That's a universal value that everyone shares.

13:12 Mike Brasher Yeah, absolutely. Anything else kind of on the history, the background there for farm bill that we needed to cover? I think we did a pretty good job there. I guess one of the things we want to talk about is sort of where we are in the renewal of the current farm bill. This is the final year. Has it like officially expired? Where are we on that?

13:32 Julia Peebles So every five years, mostly every five years, a new farm meal farm bill has exact chuckles because it depends, you know, it's like everything.

13:40 Mike Brasher If there's a if there's any kind of fixed, you know, quote, written schedule for something, chances are it's going to flex a little bit, right?

13:48 Zach Hartman Whether it's policy or not. Especially if it requires an act of confidence. Yes.

13:54 Julia Peebles So, yeah, every five years it needs to be reauthorized. And when you when I say a bill needs to be reauthorized, this is an opportunity to look at programs if they need changing. Are programs working, not working for Fish and Wildlife? Are they working for for the ranchers and the farmers and agribusiness? Are they working for, like I said, it hits nutrition, too. Is it working for some of those programs? So this is a chance to really tweak things or establish new things that are needed. But, yeah, expire September 30th of this year, which is coming up fast.

14:26 Zach Hartman Yeah, it is. No pressure, Julia. But that's a good point. And one other thing that I'd like to point out is that the needs of producers change over time. Farmers and ranchers and the people that produce the food that we all enjoy, the safest, most affordable, most reliable supply of food in the history of the world. Thank you. All the farmers that are listening out there. They face some of the most unique challenges and risk and all sorts of dynamics that don't affect people that are parts of other business, whether you have too much rain or too little rain or whether there's a pest that moves into your area. And this five year authorization schedule enables Congress and the agriculture committees in the House and Senate and the stakeholders like Ducks Unlimited and all of our other agribusiness partners to reevaluate those programs. And sometimes we need new programs to meet the needs of producers. But the most important thing and, Julia, please, I look forward to hearing about all the ways that you're doing this now is that it starts with the producer. If it doesn't work for them, then it's not going to work for any.

15:33 Mike Brasher Yeah, this is I'm sorry. This is a time of year when and actually this has been happening for several months where members of Congress are going around having listening sessions, right, with a lot of their constituents about what they want to see in the farm bill and that type stuff.

15:48 Julia Peebles Right. Yeah, it's right now listening sessions. The House with Chairman G.T. Thompson has gone around. I think he's made 40 states now that he's visited. But then also you have folks that might not be on the committee and just want to hear from their constituents and they'll have just round tables and our volunteers get invited to those and reach out to us to know what exactly the ask is. But also we have our staff that are able to attend those. But it's I would say, you know, for I kind of want to go back to what what Zach was saying about the importance of the farm bill. It's it's the safety net, I think, is what you're what you're trying to what you're talking about. You know, without the farm bill, you don't have the predictability and the certainty that you need for these producers. It's their livelihood. You know, like we might we might depend on our biweekly check and our paycheck from from Dexa Limited. And they depend on the land to for their livelihood, to feed their families, support their families. So I think that is really something to hone in on. And it's, you know, with conservation being involved, you know, being sustainable is for their livelihood, for us being sustainable is more long term for the for the wildlife, for fish and wildlife. And I would, you know, 70 percent just since the last farm bill, 70 percent of farmers are supported through ad hoc programs, which is insane because of all the natural disasters. So imagine as Congress, like Zach was joking about earlier, you're depending on Congress to pass these supplemental packages. And it's just the predictability and uncertainty is just just there.

17:23 Mike Brasher So it's it expires September 30th. This is just sort of a minutia question for my personal benefit. Maybe others listening. It expires September 30th. But that doesn't mean like benefits get cut off necessarily at September 30th. Right. So how does what?

17:35 Julia Peebles So if it takes an act of Congress, so they'll probably do an extension. OK, things will go and continue like they do on the daily. And I would imagine just how things are playing out. There will be an extension till December is what we're looking at. So our big ask is to get a farm bill passed this year.

17:52 Mike Brasher I want to talk a little bit. We've covered this already somewhat. But the importance of this farm bill for DU, achieving our mission and like help us put into context, we've already cited a few statistics. But with regard with regard to how we work with partners, why is the farm bill

18:11 Julia Peebles so important? Why do we place such high priority on it? For Ducks Unlimited, it is so key to our mission. It is really like the backbone. So what our mission is, is for restoring, conserving and managing wetlands and associated habitats like grassland and forest. All five voluntary incentive based conservation programs in the farm bill do that, and they do that for wetlands. So I think that's really important. And the more acres that we get on the ground, working with these voluntary landowners and the stewards, it means more ducks that we get in the air and better duck habitat.

18:48 Mike Brasher And then what about the partnership aspect of it? Because we're not just partnering with our fellow conservation organizations on this, right? Talk about that. What Ducks Unlimited fundamentally relies on effective partnerships with pretty much any audience that you can identify out there that has an intersection with the things that we care about. Fish, wildlife, clean waters, et cetera. Within the context of the farm bill, it's a pretty unique partnership opportunity for us, specifically with agribusiness. Talk about that and how we approach that partnership.

19:20 Julia Peebles Yeah, so, you know, I keep throwing statistics out there, but the conservation aspect of the farm bill is only six percent of the whole farm bill. So it's a very small chunk. And if we want to accomplish what we need for for the ducks and for for wetlands, we need to make sure that we are listening to all parties, right? They're the willing stewards are the ones that are implementing on the ground. So if it doesn't work and these programs aren't desirable for them, that's an issue. And it doesn't achieve our mission or achieve our goals for Habitat. So I think a couple one great example that launched on July 12th is the farm bill for America's families. And this is a big campaign that's being run by American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Farmers Union, and then some other nutrition oriented side of it. So it hits all aspects of it. Trade, nutrition, research, commodities, conservation to make sure that we are passing a farm bill at the end. But having that holistic and that broad support really generates well on Capitol Hill because it shows that, oh, if there's broad support, that means that everyone can support it. Right. I think more to our what we kind of do on the ground for our partnerships are two great examples. One is the Rice Stewardship Partnership with USA Rice Federation. We're celebrating 10 years this year, which is pretty exciting. And one that is really successful. And I honestly think it's very it's a natural fit. It has that mutual benefit of we are helping the rice producers be sustainable, helping them with nutrient management. And then they're also bringing in all the ducks. Right. Which is which is great for us. And that one has been widely successful with bringing close to one hundred and eight million dollars just to rice producers. Another one I'll highlight is the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. We signed an MOU with them and other partners back in 2020. And that one really just highlights the important grazing and grazing management as a conservation tool. And not only is that good for nesting habitat for for ducks, but also it helps, you know, the ranchers educate folks that this is important and we should keep the cattle on the ground. So not original from me, but I love the saying is what's good for the cows is good for the ducks. And really provides even, you know, Mike, you know, the the science behind this more than I do. But when you're you're grazing, it's great for diversity on vegetation. It's great for the underlying soils. And I think that science as a science based organization really helps helps us out. So bringing it back, those are just a kind of some of the partnerships that we work on that really highlight our priorities and get it across

22:03 Zach Hartman the finish line at the end of the day. Yeah, that's a great. Those are great examples, Julia. And Rice Stewardship Partnership, which began as a great idea and got put into practice initially, was able to be brought to scale and really have the impact that it's had over that last decade because of the farm bill, because of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program that was created by the 2013-14 Farm Bill. And Julia and her partners and team continue to work on ways every year during authorization to improve that a little bit so that it better meets the needs of the environment, the ag community and, of course, the ducks. And so speaking of programs in the farm bill and all the great impact that they make, Julia, I say we flip the script a little bit here and start interviewing the interviewer because, Mike, you're the scientist in the room. You have more experience than we do in terms of seeing those practices put on place in the landscape. And I'd love to hear from you and your life's work and history as a biologist and a waterfowl scientist and one of the leaders in conservation science. What are some of the programs that you think our listeners ought to know about

23:25 Mike Brasher and what the impact that they're making on the land? I do have some examples here. We did our homework before getting in here to discuss this. So I did my homework.

23:34 Zach Hartman Does that mean you woke up extra early this morning and started Googling stuff? Started started before today. Let me just tell you.

23:40 Mike Brasher But but yeah, I do have some numbers here. And I want to talk about some examples from the literature that I became very familiar with over the over the past 10, 15, 20 years. And I'll say just kind of preface this. When you look throughout the scientific literature where we have tried to go back and successfully have gone back, researchers from all across the US have gone back and tried to measure the effect, to measure the outcome from various conservation activities. The farm bill has been at the center of some of the most notable studies in that regard. And to USDA's credit, they've also invested a tremendous amount of resources in evaluating the effect that they're getting, that we, the American people, are getting fish and wildlife benefits and clean water benefits from these programs. It's billions of dollars, right, that are being spent on these conservation programs through the farm bill. And Congress obviously needs to be. And we all in the context of spending taxpayer dollars need to be held accountable that we are getting from these programs what we what we set out to get, what we say we're going to get, what we forecast that we're going to get. And so USDA has invested tremendous resources in trying to answer these questions. And it was actually they established a program. I think it's the conservation. I'm going to get this wrong. I didn't do my homework on this conservation evaluation. No, it's conservation effects. Something. Yeah. CEAPC, conservation, evaluation and assessment program. Yeah, that might be it. So anyway, have some a lot of friends that have worked through that program. And it is within the conservation field, one of the most well studied sort of suite of programs. And you can find all sorts of examples of demonstrated benefits of these programs now when put on the ground and in the fish and wildlife benefits that result. A couple that will be notable and will be interesting to our audience. I'll start with CRP, the program that conservation reserve.

25:43 Zach Hartman We don't want to wander down the alphabet soup rabbit hole. I just think of it as a word. I know, I know.

25:49 Mike Brasher So many acronyms that come with this farm bill. And so it takes marginal farmland out of production and stores it into 10 or 15 year easements for grassland. Mostly it's what we're going to talk about here, some of the grassland agreements that are in place. And so a few statistics that I did bring with me here at peak to CRP. And this is all actually all CRP peaked in the US about 37 million acres. That was back in 2007. At that time, the Dakotas peaked at about and I think Montana's included in this peaked at about 8.2 million acres. And that was going to be mostly grasslands and marginal farmland taken out of production for these voluntary incentive based programs. And so researchers, waterfowl researchers back at that time, wanted to measure the effect of that additional grass being put on the ground and the way it was secured and helped improve the health of the wetlands embedded in those grasslands. A good friend when he was, I think he might have been working for the Fish and Wildlife Service, Ron Reynolds and some of his colleagues. They estimated that during like the peak years of CRP in the Dakotas from 1992 to 2004, every year that program put an additional two million ducks in the sky. That was that was a 30% increase over the amount of ducks produced prior to CRP getting to that level. And then CRP acreage began to decline sometime thereafter. And another study came along after that and looked at the period 2005 to 2011 again for those three states and estimated at that time CRP was still adding one and a half million ducks per year to the fall flight and would have added a total of 12 million ducks to the fall flight over that time period 2005 to 2011. I mean, so that's measurable results. Millions of ducks that are being produced as a result of these programs. The other program that a lot of folks are going to be aware of in this area, or waterfowl hunters and wetland conservation is the Wetland Reserve Program is what it started out as. That was 1990 when I think it was first included.

27:58 Julia Peebles It's now I guess in the 2018 Farm Bill, it was renamed as the 2014. It had an umbrella of ASAP, which is the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Wetland Reserve Easement is a component of that.

28:12 Mike Brasher So WRP became WRE, right? Correct. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it to me, but it's okay. It has been a tremendously powerful program for conserving wetlands and enhancing wetlands. I don't have to break down by practice or anything like that. You can get deep into farm bill practices and protocols and all that. Oh yeah, we could get lost in those weeds. Absolutely. Those can be some fun conversations depending on what day it is.

28:43 Zach Hartman But I think it would be worthwhile, Mike, if you and Julia would talk a little bit about the WRE program. And when I'm out there on my lease or driving through the country with my buddies on my way to the duck camp or on a hunt,

28:59 Mike Brasher and I see something that's a WRE project, what would that look like? Well, that's a difficult question to answer because my experience tells me that what a WRE project looks like in one state, or even in one geography in one state, it's going to be a little bit different from what it's going to look like in another geography. That's because, and that's the beauty of the farm bill as I see it and as I've come to learn about it, is that it tailors conservation solutions to locally defined resource issues, right? Absolutely. Now, there are these large national umbrellas and programs under which all these other practices fall, but all the way down to the county level, soil and water conservation districts have a critical role to play in helping collect information from their producers on what their resource issues are. And then that ultimately feeds back up through the states and state technical committees, I think, is one of the committees. I've worked with those a little bit when I was in the joint venture. So, that's a bit of a detour there, but I guess I say that just to, I guess, emphasize that not all programs, not all projects are the same, even within WRE. Now, if we want to look at a place where WRE has had a profound impact, we can look at the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Historically, bottomland hardwood forest, about 25 million acres, and a lot of that has been, is now used for agriculture. And if we look at, WRP, when it first came out, WRE now was just, the appetite for that program was remarkable. As of, and it continues to be, is my understanding, as of 2019, there are over two and a half million acres enrolled in WRE. If we want to go to the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, the primary practice there was reforestation of bottomland hardwoods on marginal farmland, areas that were difficult to farm, areas that I would imagine producers were actually taking a loss on in many years. And so, this gave them an opportunity to put that back into something that's delivering all these, the multitude of benefits, and then they're getting the reward for providing those services to society. So, 1990 is when WRP came about. The Lower Mississippi Valley Joint Venture identified the importance of that program for helping it achieve some of their bottomland hardwood restoration objectives. At that time, they had established an objective for that restoration of like 520,000 acres. Within 15 years, there were over 680,000 acres enrolled in WRP, in the MAV. They surpassed their objective at that time for waterfowl, for migratory birds, forest birds, and everything else that uses that. A lot of mammals use the Louisiana black bears. It's a huge beneficiary of a lot of that restoration ever. So, I probably did a terrible job answering the question of what would it look like? It's going to differ. Typically, they might look for a sign that would say, under conservation easement, the Wetland Reserve easement or Wetland Reserve program. But it could look different in terms of vegetation community.

32:15 Julia Peebles I would also add, it probably looks different on every stage, too, when you're creating the wetland, when you're restoring it, when you're just managing it to keep the hydraulic function as it needs to be. I was in Michigan on a tour, and we met with one of his names, Jim Saddleberg. He donated an easement to us that we worked on back in 2019, and that is WRE. So, that is more, it's on Lake Heron. So, it's more of a coastal easement. So, a lot of the work that we did was invasive species management of working with our partners, like the Michigan DNR and some of the local conservation districts there to remove phragmites or any other thing. So, like you said, I think it's very different.

32:59 Zach Hartman It is different. And you did a really great job of teeing up an important thing that we wanted to touch on during this podcast. And we talked about this before, but that is the importance of flexibility. Yeah. Because no two farming operations, whether they're divided by hundreds or thousands of miles or just a county road, are alike. And the different needs that all of them have. Julia, talk about the way in which these conversations with the ag community around flexibility are coming to life

33:31 Julia Peebles and some of the issues that you're working on in this farm bill. Yeah. So, how I always think of the farm bill, I think of it in themes. So, I mentioned at the beginning of this episode of, you know, when I first started at Ducks and Lumen, I got kind of hit the ground running and working with our conservation delivery team. And when I met with folks across the regions of what works and what doesn't work with these conservation programs, I created two themes and one of those was flexibility. And that also resonates well with the commodities because each commodity, if it's a soybean, if it's a corn, if it's rice, is very different. So, for example, if you're in the Midwest and you want to plant a cover crop, that's great. Works great for the producers up there. But if you're in rice country, if you're in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, I'll just name all those rice states now, Texas and California. You can name them all. Yeah, it's a short list. You know, that's cover crop probably won't work, but maybe some of the post-harvest flooding, winter flooding that you can get through the same working lands programs. So again, those practices, it just depends and provides that flexibility. So, we work very closely to make sure, you know, on the ground with our conservation delivery team. But even when we work on policy to make sure that we're not doing the one size fits all approach through policy.

34:46 Mike Brasher And there are a number of other examples that I can point to that reflect that flexibility and how conservationists work with the agricultural community to design these programs that design. I don't know, the program, the word program has too many different meanings in this. Programs and projects have too many different meanings. I know, I know. But there are a number of examples that we can point to where conservation professionals get together with the agricultural producers and community and will identify their issues. There are some of the things that they're wanting to address, whether it be, let's say, I'll use an example I'm familiar with is a model duck habitat conservation program in Louisiana and Texas. And so we would define some of what we think is needed from a habitat standpoint, then talk with agricultural producers in that community and see if there are certain issues they're struggling with that we can then look to a variety of farm bill programs to deliver something that provides habitat from model ducks. Yet addresses a concern of theirs, these mutually beneficial solutions. And then there's a host of programs within the farm bill, like the environmental qualities incentive program. Do we still have the wildlife habitat incentive program? Yeah, so it's, well, it's a component of Equip, which is 10% of practices have to be wildlife oriented practices. And so I remember being involved in a lot of conversations where the NRCS folks would say, well, we've got this practice in Equip back when WIPP was still its separate wildlife habitat incentive program was still a separate thing. They would say, we've got this practice in this program that we can probably use. And then it's almost like you create this portfolio of options under this, this sort of regionally specific program. And I say program, let's say model duck habitat conservation program, you know, and then that's how it works. It's like you draw from this menu. You're in one of the more challenging things is to me. It's almost like you have too many choices sometimes. And that's kind of a difficult thing to say. But the point is that maximum flexibility is really there. If if we sit down and talk through the issues and try to find those practices that would help us address it. There are other examples from all across the US designed to address local resource concerns that draw from the practices in the farm bill. It's not all just CRP, the conservation reserve program. It's not all just WRE, wetland reserve easement program. It's a whole host of other things that can be tailored to those specific programs or those specific resource issues. They get all that right.

37:32 Julia Peebles Yeah, and I would just highlight to, you know, we're talking about CRP and then WRE, but the working lands component, I think, is really huge. Because if you're not familiar with what working lands is, it's it's essentially working. Right. So these farmers or ranchers that want to continue their operation, but might want to do something that's edge of field. So if you need a wetland buffer or you need a grass filter strip for water quality, that all benefits the habitat and benefits biodiversity, but keeps them working on their land, I think is very important. And that's something that we work very closely with a lot of our commodity partners in agribusiness.

38:05 Mike Brasher I want to take a break right here. We're about I think we're maybe a little bit over halfway through our conversation here, but we're going to take a break. Then we're going to come back. We haven't really talked yet about what Ducks Unlimited priorities are for this next farm bill. We're going to get into a little bit of that. We're also going to talk about it's more than just fish and wildlife. It's more than waterfowl, but it's also more than other wildlife species and other fish. It's a whole bucket of services, ecosystem services that these programs and the lands that they're they're on are delivering. So stay with us, folks. We're going to come back and we'll we'll close out on the backside. Welcome back, everyone. I'm here with Zach Hartman and Julia Peebles, and we are going to continue our conversation here about the farm bill. And we've talked a lot already about how the farm bill conservation programs in the farm bill benefit waterfowl populations. And the reality is that they deliver benefits for a host of other critters. They deliver benefits for a host of other services. Anybody paying attention to this episode to these episodes over the past couple of years will probably and to anything Ducks Unlimited these days will know that we talk a fair bit about how our conservation efforts result in benefits under this umbrella that we refer to as ecosystem services, clean water, abundant water, soil health, floodwater retention. All of those types of things have have been provided by wetlands conservation, grasslands conservation, as long as we've been doing it. But there's a stronger discussion, a louder discussion around those benefits nowadays that extends into the farm bill, quite frankly, because the programs delivered through the conservation provisions of the farm bill deliver those exact same benefits. And so, Julie, I want you to talk about some of those. I know there are a couple of prominent examples. Soil health and water quality. We'll use those as just sort of the example here. Talk about how this elevated awareness of the importance of those two those two things is getting a bit more attention and maybe even providing opportunities for Ducks Unlimited to build some additional partnerships around the type of things that we see as valuable in a farm bill.

40:41 Julia Peebles Yeah, absolutely. So I'll start with one that I mentioned already with the Rice Stewardship Partnership that we have with USA Rice Federation. You know, one of the partners that we have there is Mosaic. A lot of people don't think a fertilizer company is a sustainable company, but they really help with nutrient management and more of those ecosystems or ecosystem services that you mentioned, Mike. Another one that is new to us and is pretty exciting is the National Pork Board. We have a grant with them and we're partnering with them in Millbourne Seed, excuse me, where we're able to provide these pork producers cover crop options. So Millbourne Seed will come in and give them a discount rate if they buy their seed, but they're also able to come in and help with seed mixture, what they think is appropriate for their their operation. So those are a couple of exciting things that we're doing also with Perina. Like they even join us on Capitol Hill with our advocacy. They're you know, they have their sustainability goals, part of their ag supply chain that we do a lot of work with them, not only on the ground, but in D.C. as well.

41:46 Mike Brasher So it sounds like we have some new partners around farm bill discussions that we might not have had 10 years ago. I don't even know if we would have had them five years ago, but let's say 10 years ago, 15 years ago, we probably wouldn't have wouldn't have had. And I don't know how much of a read you have on this, but I guess my question is, what's how different is that feeling for Ducks Unlimited on Capitol Hill to be along partnering alongside some of these very influential groups on this absolutely crucial piece of legislation? Because we're now seeing things through at least, you know, through a similar lens on some of these key issues like soil health and water quality.

42:26 Julia Peebles I mean, we've got new partners, new powerful partners that that in a lot of people's eyes are not traditionally who they think about as partnering with. Right. And, you know, I think conservation is becoming more and more of the trend, right? I think science is really speaking for itself. I think there's a lot more ad hoc natural disasters that folks are dealing with if it's flooding or drought. And they're looking for what are other avenues that they can make their operation more sustainable. And having these partnerships, I think, you know, I'm not saying D is unique in any way. I think we are just the known reasonable, realistic broker that people want to work with because we understand that, you know, to make to get these wildlife habitats and get the ducks in the air, we need to work with these landowners and these agribusinesses.

43:17 Zach Hartman So and make these programs desirable through this incentive based voluntary voluntary programs. It's really an extension of what we've been going through as an organization, Mike. You talk about how our audience is becoming more familiar with the ecosystem services that wetlands and grasslands and waterfowl habitat provide. We're we've gotten better at managing that. We've gotten better at quantifying the outcomes that our work provides. And the agriculture community faces an evolving set of risks and challenges. And we are seeing better and better alignment over time. And that voluntary and incentive based way that D.U. approaches our conservation work where we have to have partners with skin in the game. We have to have partners that have an intangible value out of the partnership around their values and the risks that they're experiencing and the things that they need to manage, whether, like you said, water quality, water quantity, flood protection. These are things that we can partner with all sorts of new great partners in an enthusiastic way and add that value across the board. And at the end of the day, we still get a lot of ducks.

44:33 Mike Brasher Yeah. And Julia, you made a good point about it's ducks unlimited, not necessarily being completely unique in the way we're partnering with these these additional groups. And so that makes me think about our our conservation partners, the other NGOs that are also on the Hill that are advocating alongside us. Talk about some of those some of those folks and I guess give people an idea of what that collaboration looks like. How closely do you communicate with the policy specialists for, let's say, Pheasants Forever, Delta Waterfowl or TRCP?

45:09 Julia Peebles I mean, is that a pretty tight community? Yeah, it definitely is. It's very much so that we have, you know, this core group of conservation partners just as much as we have core group of our ag partners like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has a private lands working group where we develop some farm bill priorities and work through what those should look like. But yeah, we work closely with Pheasants Forever, too. You know, we do a lot with the Conservation Reserve Program, but they do more. So it's always great to have their knowledge and their institutional knowledge and science backing some of that up. We also work with the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. They hosted a farm bill fly in earlier this year for all the partners where we were went into offices and had a collective priority of getting a farm bill done and having strong funding for conservation within the farm bill. So we work very closely with a lot of conservation groups as well.

46:03 Zach Hartman And Mike, that's where a lot of the sausage making happens in Washington. It's behind the scenes. It's sitting down with the other conservation groups and doing all the hard work that Julia and her colleagues and peers in D.C. and around the country, for that matter, perform on a daily basis. But it takes there are a lot of diverse needs and there are a lot of diverse issues. And so aligning the community behind what our proposed solutions are for those things and going in with one voice is the key to success when it comes to advocacy. We need to make sure that these members of Congress and their staff aren't hearing one story from one particular conservation group or agriculture group or something like that. And then having someone come in right behind them with a different story. And a big high five, attaboy, great job for Julia and the rest of the team that have created that alignment to go in there with one common voice when it comes to the things that are good for Waterfowl and America's farmers.

47:10 Mike Brasher Thank you for that, Zach. Yeah, that's a really valuable additional perspective. And I think in that same vein, that's where a lot of our and some of the some of the behind the scenes stuff, it's where a lot of our volunteers get involved. They don't aren't necessarily the ones that are out in front, at least with regard to the way we talk about it. But they're absolutely crucial. And, Julia, I want you to talk about that exactly.

47:35 Julia Peebles What role do our volunteers, do our members play in influencing the farm bill and the things that we would like to see in it? Yeah, they're pretty huge to the whole the whole advocacy portion and getting our priorities across the finish line in the farm bill. They are our partners. And what's key to D.U.'s mission is working with our partners and we couldn't do it without them. So our volunteers, we've had a couple of opportunities. In February, we had our state policy chair fly in where we gave them talking points and they met with their members of Congress and advocating for the farm bill. They've come in or they've been able to participate in some listening sessions that have been across the country. Same with some of those round tables. Some of these volunteers even come back for like a congressional baseball game and then they want to continue to advocate. So, you know, like Dave Bowers is the big one. Bill Aldiner is another another huge one that are, you know, Dave Bowers got her excellence award from the policy committee. But those folks, you know, do so much for us. And we're always open line communication if they want to come to us and be like, hey, this is happening there. I always like to tell people to take a step back. I'm one person in D.C. that handles these policies, but they don't want to hear from me. They want to hear from their constituents. And these are volunteers are the constituents. Right. So when they're coming in and advocating for it, they have a better perspective and a lot, you know, many of our volunteers, too, are producers. They're farmers or ranchers. So they can also provide some shed some light on some of these programs. Like we had a couple of producers come in a couple a few weeks ago and enroll in some of these programs are like, yeah, it's working here. It's not working here. These are some issues that we're struggling with. And so they have that those stories and on the ground perspective that I am unable to provide for them. We've also been entertaining some other folks coming in besides these one off fly ins. We've had the National Black Growers Council come in and we had about 14 of them in town for two days of meetings. And they did an excellent job where they were there to advocate for their priorities. But also we have those mutual priorities that benefit what we work on together.

49:49 Zach Hartman So that was a good opportunity to kind of introduce them to our world and give them access to some of these members of Congress. Julia made a great point when she brought up Dave Bowers, who is the most recent recipient of D.U.'s Excellence in Policy Volunteerism Award. I know you're out there listening, Dave. So we appreciate you. But the point that she reminded me of was that Ducks Unlimited Advocacy does not stop at the water's edge or the D.C. beltway. It goes way out into the states and into the countryside. And the program that Dave, the effort that Dave received that award for was actually a state program. And our state teams, our state directors of public policy across the U.S. and all of our state policy chairs who are all volunteers do a lot of really great work advancing the state programs that are used to really maximize and leverage the federal programs. And that first most important D.U. dollar that is raised at our events in our state level. And so not only that, but as Julia mentioned, the most valuable engagement is that engagement that you can get in that member's backyard. And Julia, tell us a little bit about some of the outreach that our volunteers have been doing, whether it's field tours or testimony at some of these farm bill hearings. Share a few examples of that so our listeners can really know the impact that their buddy, who they never really suspected that sits at their table at their D.U. committee dinner is really making a difference on a big scale.

51:22 Julia Peebles Yeah. So some of those listening sessions, like there was one in New York, we had Jeff Holliday, who is the state policy chair up there. He attended that for us and got great feedback where he even developed some partnerships with us where they were able just to connect and be like, oh, I didn't know that's Ducks Unlimited's priorities and that's where they stand on the farm bill. So spreading the word is always helpful. There are some other opportunities that they've done is some field tours that is usually pretty big in August when you have the members of Congress back in the state and in the district. One recent one was with Senator Tina Smith. We got her out on the ground with about 20 to 30 folks. It was on a ranch in Minnesota and Bill Aldinger was able to attend that one for us and had some good conversations with the senator. So having those face time, I think is crucial and very valuable to us and kind of, you know, it's a relationship building exercise. It really makes us credible when you have those folks advocating for us.

52:19 Mike Brasher You mentioned D.U. priorities and we haven't touched on that yet, at least not within the context of the 2023 farm bill, the hopeful 2023 farm bill. If it gets passed next year, if it doesn't get passed by the end of the year, does it does it become the 2024 farm bill? I guess that would be the proper.

52:38 Julia Peebles I'm trying not to think that far.

52:41 Mike Brasher Whatever year they pass it, that's what they call it. That's what we call it. OK, so the 2023 farm bill. So what are Ducks Unlimited priorities and like, how do we determine those? Maybe you don't have to go too far into that, but just just what are we pushing?

52:57 Julia Peebles What are we wanting to see in this farm bill? Yeah. So what I mentioned earlier is like working with the conservation delivery team on what's working, what's not working. We're only looking at small changes within programs, hoping to maintain or see increased funding overall for conservation programs. But I think one of the big priorities is working lands. So what we've mentioned with some of those practices, you know, if let's for example, if you're in the Prairie Pothole region and you're driving by, you might see. Well, it's going to be pretty big. It would be an acre or two acres, but you might see a wetland in the middle of a crop field that is likely enrolled in one of these working land programs. Again, going to Arkansas, Rice State, you might see a flooded field, and that's probably enrolled in one of these working lands programs. So making sure that we're maintaining and continuing to fund those is very important. They are over prescribed, just like any other conservation program. So, again, we want to make sure that they're doing well. I think another one to mention that you touched on is CRP, the Conservation Reserve Program, which allows farmers, ranchers and landowners to set aside land that's unproductive or highly erodible and enroll that to receive incentives to do some conservation practices. If it's, you know, the grass filter stripper, the wetland buffer for improving water quality, but great habitat, I think is really important to us. I know you talked about, you know, it's a net increase for for ducks each year. I think it's also important that a lot of people probably hunt on CRP land. Absolutely. You know, my family, I mentioned goes to South Dakota. They're hunting on CRP land. When I'm hunting on the eastern shore of Maryland, I'm hunting on CRP land. So a lot of people, I think, would realize that. But it's interesting that when you're not involved in the policy every day, you're just like, oh, yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about.

54:39 Zach Hartman There isn't always a sign.

54:40 Julia Peebles Yeah, unfortunately, I wish I wish there was for every piece of land. And then the other one I'll just highlight, you know, we have other priorities, but I think this is one that is well known as WRE that you mentioned earlier, the Wetland Reserve easements. These are 30 year or permanent easements. This is the largest federal program to restore wetlands. And you were talking about bottomland hardwood when this first came about in the 1990s. It's WRP. 80 percent of the bottomland hardwood that we have in the south were converted. So this is a huge program for protecting protecting those wetlands in the waterfowl habitat to make sure that we're not converting those. But, you know, WRE is is great not only for habitat, but it also is, you know, again, that ecosystem services piece of it, which is great for for the livelihoods of these landowners and farmers and ranchers. So if you let's example, let's say you have a hundred acres on your farm, but maybe 20 of those acres aren't productive. So how can you retain that ownership while not having it have a crop on it that just it doesn't work? So enrolling in programs like WRE does help you have that financial incentive where you're saving on, you know, you don't have to enroll in some federal farm programs. You don't have to do any replanting costs. You're just you can take those savings and put it into your more productive soils at the end of the day. So I think that one is very huge for us. And I think the main aspect there is stewardship. So we are really want to make sure that in the middle of these contracts that we are doing management. So let's say that you might need to do trend tree thinning. You might need to do invasive species removal. That stewardship aspect is very key because you don't want these lands that we restore and conserve. We don't want them to be degraded at the end of the day. So if you're it's in my mind, it's a quality versus quantity component that we're really honing in on in this farm bill just because just the small changes that are needed.

56:41 Mike Brasher So that would be the mid contract management provisions, right? I'm pretty sure we get strong support from Pheasants Forever on that one, too. Right. Oh, yes, of course. So Jim Ingles on the WRE, sorry, on the CRP. Right. That's right. Yeah. Jim Ingles with Pheasants Forever was a good friend of mine. We went to school at Mississippi State and have stayed in touch. And that's the one thing that he would always I remember him talking about more than anything else when we were in Ohio and I talked to him about some of their priorities and some of the things that they strive to do and advocate for mid contract management. And of course, Westberger from down in Mississippi State, too, he's a professor and quail researcher quail are a huge beneficiary of a lot of the lot of farm bill conservation programs as well. And mid contract management. I mean, that's that's key. But we're talking about it also. You were you were saying I was confusing that a little bit in my mind. Credit to Jim for causing me to think anytime I hear mid contract management, I think.

57:33 Julia Peebles Well, it's funny that you mentioned that because we're taking that that model and using it for WRE to do more cost share opportunities for for folks.

57:41 Mike Brasher Oh, that's awesome. That's that's some kind of new information for me. So I appreciate that. What about RCPP, Regional Conservation Partnership Program? Another acronym in our soup. I assume that we are looking for a robust continuation of that opportunity.

57:57 Julia Peebles Yeah, so that would fall under the working lands component of it. It's a public private partnership. And it does. I mean, we wouldn't have the right stewardship partnership without it. So we want to support it. We want to keep it in the same structure. It's worked well for us. We just need some small tweaks to some technical assistance and accounting for that and how how it's paid for. But that's a little into the weeds, but it's still a very successful program. And we want to keep it that way. Any other any other of our priorities relative to the farm bill that we want to touch on here before we move on? I guess the overall is one that one that we work on or two that we work on closely with our ad groups are we sign onto letters for the safety net, make sure that we're not relying on HADHOC programs. We're relying on ad hoc ad hoc. OK, excuse me. It's all good ad hoc. We had another acronym working its way in there. So working with them to, you know, from start to finish and hitting the whole food supply chain is really key there.

58:57 Zach Hartman And then also crop insurance is is a big piece that we support and maintaining that. That's a great point, Julia, because at the end of the day, the farm bill is a safety net program. And people hear a lot about the farm bill that during the debate over the farm bill and all these details. But what we have to remember is that we invest a tiny, tiny portion of our federal budget as a nation. And what we get out of it is the safest, most affordable, most reliable food supply that is produced in the most sustainable way and is the friendliest possible food supply to wetlands. And waterfowl and wildlife and provides also benefits to all people. And so it's important to get the mix right. And that's why there's all these different titles and provisions and stakeholders. But by working together on those common values that we all need to derive from this process is is how we get the programs right to fit the needs of the producers out on the landscape and deliver for the ducks.

01:00:02 Mike Brasher So as we as we move to wrap up here, I have a few other few final questions. If I'm a farmer, a rancher or a landowner, I'm listening to this and maybe I've heard a few things that I wasn't aware of. I knew the basics of the farm bill. Maybe it's a landowner. I guess it would probably be more likely that a landowner would be the one that wouldn't know about some of the things that we've talked about. You've got to think most farmers and ranchers are pretty well versed on on the farm bill, I would imagine. But let's say I'm a landowner and I hear something that I want to learn more about. What's the best way for me to get that kind of information? Where do I go?

01:00:37 Julia Peebles Yeah, I'll also say there are beginner farmers and historically underserved farmers and ranchers who don't know the program. So they do go to their local FSA, so Farm Service Agency Office or Natural Resources Conservation Service Office to try to identify what can they do? Like, what are their options out there? So those are great partners, but also come to DU. I mean, I might be putting our conservation delivery team on the spot, but you know, our contact is on our website. Reach out to us. They'll get a we'll get you in contact with the right person. But and then we can have our team go out there and do that technical assistance that I mentioned earlier of doing some conservation planning, maybe some assessment of what could be done, not done, and then give you that menu of options and those practices that could be enrolled on your land.

01:01:25 Mike Brasher That's a great point because there have been well, I know Pheasants Forever has this has become a core piece of their business model, so to speak, is a farm bill biologist. They recognize that there was more opportunity through these farm bill conservation programs than NRCS staff alone or FSA staff alone could deliver, can make that connection with those landowners. And so they began to hire farm bill biologists to serve as that liaison, additional liaison capacity between those offices and those landowners. And we've employed that too, in a few places, I believe, where we have some high priority opportunities with farm bill programs, conservation programs. And it's perhaps the interest to the opportunity for that to be on the ground outpaces the capacity inherent in an NRCS or an FSA office. And so we strike these strategic partnerships to have some of our staff provide that link. Am I we're still doing some of that?

01:02:21 Julia Peebles We are. We definitely are. I don't think to the same extent as Pheasants Forever, but we do have that link. And if it's not a cost share employee, we just have a great partnership with USDA because they understand the importance, capacity and getting the experts on the ground. Some universities don't teach all of these courses anymore, like soil health. So they need to rely on their partners to make sure that we are spreading the wealth, doing outreach. Like we have an initiative to get more ducks on the ground. It's the Migratory Bird Resurgence Initiative. It's one of those working lands programs to enhance small wetlands and crop fields, but also do the winter flooding and rice states. We're helping with the outreach. We're doing that for USDA because of the capacity issue. So we're doing the education on the ground, finding those landowners and those applicants that would be eligible for those practices. When all the dust settles, what do we how will we know if we Ducks Unlimited have gotten if the farm bill that we have is, quote, successful from our view? It gets passed this year. That's exactly what I was going to say. But maintain and increase funding for the conservation title, I think is really key for us. I think prioritizing stewardship or that mid contract management that we were talking about is huge. You know, the quality versus quantity component. Let's make sure we're maintaining these existing landscapes that we have. The other one is for our partnership. Keep the keep the bill and the legislation holistic because of that safety net component. You can't separate the commodity title or commodity provisions away from nutrition. Nutrition, this bill supplies nine million meals to families every year, which is huge. So when you start dividing that, that's when you start getting division in Congress and you're not being successful. You're not you're not moving the needle like you need to. And then I think the last thing and Zach, chime in if I'm forgetting anything. But if we have a farm bill that has no provisions harming the ducks or converting wetlands, that's a huge success as well.

01:04:29 Zach Hartman That's probably our biggest priority out of everything. I think Julia really nailed it. At the end of the day, getting a farm bill is a difficult task because of the diversity of stakeholders and individuals and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that are involved in writing it to meet the needs of the diverse individuals of producers and constituencies in their districts. That rely on on this legislation every year. And so getting a farm bill passed is is going to be a huge effort. Ducks Unlimited is completely behind that. We're arm in arm with the agriculture community. I'd say and Julia touched on this, a strong producer safety net. If producers are worried and concerned and don't have certainty about making ends meet year over year in spite of all of the different challenges that they face and that Mother Nature can throw at them, then there won't be farms on the landscape to provide these working lands and implement these working land programs. And they are essential partners to us. There's people went back when I was on the Hill doing farm bills, people used to joke and say, you know, sustainability to a farmer is being in business next year. And if I was a farmer, that'd be the most important type of sustainability to me. And when you can count on that, then you can start looking for other opportunities to invest in your operation, to achieve all the things that you love about the land that you have the responsibility to manage when it comes to the wildlife,

01:05:59 Mike Brasher when it comes to the water quality, when it comes to water scarcity, flood prevention, all these great things that these programs help for the ducks and for all people and for farmers and ranchers to implement. What can our listeners do to help?

01:06:15 Julia Peebles What do we kind of have in mind in that regard? Yeah, I'd love to give them a call to action. Let's get them out there, reaching out to their member of Congress and saying, you know, we need to pass a farm bill this year. Twenty twenty three is the year. Let's make sure that it has a strong conservation funding levels. I think that's a very simple, you know, easy message that resonates really well on Capitol Hill. I also maybe can put in the link of the episode to when I mentioned earlier, the farm bill for for America's families, which is that big coalition of very, very diverse, broad groups that touches on it. And they also have a call to action there that we can that we can help support.

01:06:53 Zach Hartman Those are great ideas, Julia. You can also subscribe to Duck Policy Insiders newsletter if you're interested in the great work that Julia and the rest of her colleagues on the Duck DU public policy team and our policy volunteers are doing. That'll inspire you to find ways that you can get involved in your local community, in your state and working on all sorts of policy issues from conservation program delivery to ag programs to event based fundraising issues. Public policy work that Ducks Unlimited does is critically important to our mission. We work. I always joke around. I say we're a conservation organization. There are people that do conservation and everybody else's support, right? But you can make a big impact on the conservation that's being done in your state by plugging into the policy work and simply clicking on a link when you get an email from our policy team that says, hey, can you contact your senator or your congressman? They're about to take an important vote. And so please look for those opportunities to learn more about all the great work the policy is doing in the farm bill and beyond.

01:08:03 Mike Brasher Where would a person go to subscribe to become a Duck Policy Insider? I am one, by the way. I am one. Let's get that out there. But someone else, all of our listeners, I am sure will want to become a Duck Policy Insider. So give them the instructions. They can go through the policy page under the conservation page of the DU website or they can just click the very convenient link in the bottom of this podcast. Well, there you go. We've got it. Well, Julia, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate all the work that you do for us in D.C. on agricultural policy. And well, I'm sure it extends beyond that. Everything that you do, appreciate it. It's been great working with you here over the past year. And then finally, finally got to sit down and have a conversation with you here on the podcast. Zach, I see you about every day. So sorry about that. It's good to see you in here again. Always appreciate your time and input on the podcast. And I hope our listeners, I'm confident our listeners will have picked up a few new pieces of information about the farm bill in general. And I know they will have this better understanding of where we are right now in 2023 and trying to get a farm bill passed is absolutely valuable information to us. And so thank you two for being here with us and sharing that message. Thank you for having us. Thanks, Mike. It's been great. A very special thanks to our guest on this episode. Zach Hartman, Ducks Unlimited's chief policy officer and Julia Peebles, Ducks Unlimited's director of agriculture and sustainability policy. We thank them for all the great work that they do. As always, we thank our producer, Chris Isaac, for the wonderful work he does in getting these episodes edited and out to you and to you, the listener. We thank you for your time and we thank you for your support of wetlands and waterfowl conservation and duck policy.

Creators and Guests

Mike Brasher
Ducks Unlimited Podcast Science Host
Ep. 507 –  Ducks, Farmers, and Partners in the Farm Bill