Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Sid Miller hosted the Western Caucus in Fort Worth, Texas last week to help Congressional members hear directly from landowners and agriculture producers about the issues they want addressed in the 2023 Farm Bill. American Stewards’ executive director, Margaret Byfield, briefed members on the actions taken in the last Congress to implement Biden’s unauthorized 30×30 initiative, suggesting ways these could be rolled back and restore American’s constitutionally protected property rights.
Byfield pointed out that the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed last August, changed the language authorizing the conservation programs landowners are familiar with. Instead of the familiar language to improve agriculture production, the new language requires mitigating climate change, controlling livestock emissions, and managing agriculture production, which gives the federal government more control over landowner’s activities and the nation’s food security.
This policy change was one of the many recommendations in the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis report of 2020, to help implement 30×30. Byfield recommended the members keep the 2018 Farm Bill language as is and not allow the climate language in the new authorization to be finalized in September.
Additionally, when asked how Congress could reign in the unaccountable regulatory agencies, she recommended that Congress do more to limit their rule-making authority and administrative powers. One example she gave was to exclude the conservation programs from the Section 7 consultation process under the Endangered Species Act. This provision requires all agencies to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when an endangered species or its habitat may be impacted on lands with federal programs or funding. By making this exclusion, Congress could make clear it never intended private landowners to be subjected to this provision under the conservation programs, and therefore, prevent the Biden Administration from using the Endangered Species Act to strip away property rights and move more lands under federal control to meet their 30×30 agenda.
The forum was sponsored by the Western Caucus Foundation. It was chaired by Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and attended by multiple House Congressional members, including Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX), Agriculture Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA) and over 40 congressional staff.
Additional members in attendance included Rep. Austin Scott (GA-08), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-01), Rep. Jim Baird (IN-04), Rep. Cliff Bentz (OR-2), Rep. John Duarte (CA-13), Rep. Michelle Fischbach (MN-07), Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-09), Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks (IA- 01), Rep. David Rouzer (NC-07), Rep. David Valadao (CA-22), and Rep. Michael Burgess (TX-26).
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller was joined by several colleagues including Secretary Blayne Arthur (OK), Oklahoma Agriculture Deputy Commissioner JanLee Rowlett , Wyoming Agriculture Director Doug Miyamoto , and Washington Director of Agriculture Derek Sandison.
The USDA recently announced they will begin releasing the IRA funding for these conservation programs in March, 2023, which includes additional funds for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and Wetland Reserve Program (WEP).
Byfield warned that landowners need to be discerning before signing up for these programs and recommends they insist on complete transparency by fully reviewing the program’s contract language before enrolling.