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Release No. 0301.05 Contact: USDA Press Office (202) 720-4623 - page 50 / 53

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The Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program have been two of the nation's premier and most successful conservation programs to date. It's not because they're necessarily the largest conservation programs.  But it's because they're designed to work with the farmers, they're incentive-based, and I feel that they represent a very positive attribute for rural economy. And time and time again we can constantly tell they're very accepted in the rural communities because the demand far exceeds the amount of supply of funding.  These are working lands.  That's another point I want to bring to you.  Although they may not be growing corn or wheat or soybeans, they are working lands and should be considered as such.  They are growing wildlife, clean water, recreation, and economic diversity for rural communities. Second point I want to make, a year ago tomorrow your boss and our president was here in the great state of Minnesota, and he delivered a very important message to farmers that are currently enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program.  If I may I'll quote him real quickly.  He said, "Right now we have 35 million acres of CRP.  The Conservation Reserve Program contracts covering two-thirds of existing land in the program are scheduled to expire in 2007 and 2008.  To make sure these farmlands stay protected, I am directing the Secretary of Agriculture to offer early enrollments and extensions of existing contracts.  The farm -- (audio break) MODERATOR:  Thank you. Our last question of the forum.  Go ahead, please.

           MR. TIM BUSKY (sp):  Hello.  I'm Tim Busky.  I work for the Minnesota Project. We're a policy organization on agriculture, energy and food system issues.  I also farm and have been enrolled in the commodity program for the last nine years as well as the conservation programs.  We thank you for being here, of course. We look at the goals and objectives for the 2007 Farm Bill, which should be nothing short of reestablishing agriculture as the backbone of the American economy.  We can do this while improving our nation's water and soil resources for the long-term. A widening U.S. trade imbalance, increasing energy costs, rural population loss are the issues that we face, and no industry as a whole is more poised or has ability to address these issues.  We have to do this as a fundamental change in the Farm Bill reducing the commodity support programs and increasing the Conservation Security Program. Yesterday we learned that Congressman Gutknecht said that 650 commodities are grown in the United States.  There is one common denominator to all of those growers; that is, the soil quality of those fields.  If we can base our payments on stewardship of that land we can become WTO compliant, we can raise energy crops on there, and we can decouple the crops we grow from the mindset we have in this country. We need to provide innovation mindset in this country and decoupling payments to specific crop commodities will do that.  And improving our soil and water resources will achieve what the EPA and other federal governments are trying to achieve.  And we

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