USDA To Provide $84 Million To Protect Farm And Ranch Land
Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced that $84 million will be available to protect farm and ranch land through USDA's Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP).
"The Bush Administration is committed to conserving our natural resources," Veneman said. "Through this program, USDA will work cooperatively with states, tribes, local communities and individuals to protect farm and ranch lands."
Through USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), FRPP protects productive agricultural land by purchasing conservation easements to limit conversion of farm and ranch lands to non-agricultural uses. NRCS will accept proposals from interested state, tribal and local governments and non-governmental organizations until the end of April 2004. The Request for Proposals will be published in tomorrow's Federal Register, March 17, 2004.
For those proposals selected for FRPP funding, USDA enters into agreements with selected entities to support their efforts to protect soils and historical and archaeological sites. USDA provides up to 50 percent of the appraised fair market value of the conservation easement.
To participate in FRPP, landowners agree to limit the use of their land for nonagricultural purposes and to develop and implement a conservation plan. To qualify, the farm or ranch land must contain productive soils or historic or archaeological sites and be:
part of a pending offer from a nongovernmental organization, state, tribe or local farmland protection program;
covered by a conservation plan;
large enough to sustain agricultural production;
accessible to markets for what the land produces; and
surrounded by parcels of land that can support long-term agricultural production.
For a copy of the FRPP Request for Proposals or more information regarding the program, please consult the following Website: www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/frpp/
CEO Defends Plans to BSE Test All
Creekstone Farms CEO John Stewart defended his company's plans to open Japan's market for U.S. beef products by testing every animal it slaughters for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, in addition to removing extra specified risk material. Stewart made his statements in late February at the end of a teleconference sponsored by the American Meat Institute where AMI President J. Patrick Boyle was announcing efforts to get U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to lead the effort to swiftly re-establish North American beef and cattle trade. Stewart said he was "disappointed" in a New York Times quote of AMI's Dan Murphy saying Creekstone's solution to breaking into Japan's market was incorrect.
"We believe the real matter is that our ideas differ from AMI," Stewart said. "We believe our solution is correct, and we're going to continue to push in that direction. We don't necessarily consider this just a marketing approach," he said. "We think it's good business. "We are concerned, a little bit, about objectivity here," Stewart said. "We understand that the AMI has to support the industry, but unfortunately, the industry is controlled by four major packers, so that puts people like Creekstone in a difficult position." Boyle had no immediate response to Stewart's comments.
In the teleconference, Boyle said the AMI sent a letter to Veneman Friday urging her to move quickly to re-establish trade in cattle, beef and beef products from countries that are at minimal risk for BSE such as Canada and to lead an effort to harmonize the rules governing such trade throughout North America. Those trade rules should be set according to accepted, scientifically sound guidelines set by the Office of International Epizootics for countries at minimal risk of BSE. Boyle said AMI agreed with recommendations from an international scientific review team that evaluated the department's BSE investigation and control measures. The team's report recommended that the U.S. lead the international community in BSE policies by bringing U.S. trade policies into conformance with those set by OIE.
Under OIE guidelines, AMI noted that cattle and beef trade is permitted under certain conditions even among nations that have diagnosed BSE cases. AMI said that existing limitations on Canadian imports were "without a foundation in science." "There is a terrible irony in the fact that the U.S. requirements imposed on Canada in 2003 are the very precedents preventing U.S. beef exports to Mexico today," Boyle said.
In the teleconference, Boyle also rejected as unscientific certain requirements sought by some trading partners that call for testing all cattle for BSE or requests for removal of additional SRMs, saying they are neither supported by science nor required under international standards. "Until the U.S. exhibits leadership by reopening the Canadian border to cattle and beef and beef products in a manner that conforms with OIE standards, it is unrealistic to expect that other countries will afford any similar access opportunities for American ranchers and processors," Boyle said.
In a related matter, R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America Friday berated the USDA for not doing enough to protect the U.S. cattle industry. In a press release, the group said it had written its own letter to Veneman on Thursday critical of USDA's "failure to look out for U.S. cattle producers' best interests. The letter charged that the USDA had "consistently ignored requests and suggestions by the domestic cattle industry to bolster our U.S. cattle herd's resistance to the introduction of foreign animal diseases and to strengthen our ability to respond to a disease should an outbreak occur." R-CALF USA's letter went on to say, "(We are) disappointed that the USDA has failed to exercise its influence for the benefit of U.S. cattle producers by either negotiating a reopening of U.S. export markets or by closing U.S. borders, particularly to countries like Canada and Mexico, which are so blatantly demonstrating their contempt for the well being of the U.S. cattle industry by importing beef and/or cattle into the U.S. while simultaneously prohibiting U.S. beef exports. "To further add insult to injury, Mexico continues to import beef from Canada, a country known to have BSE circulating within its cattle herd, while refusing beef from the U.S., a country which still meets the OIE criteria of a BSE Provisionally Free country," R-CALF USA said.