BLM REPORTEDLY OPPOSES HEALTHY FOREST ACT
The Bureau of Land Management is apparently opposing a measure to increase state’s control over fire mitigation decisions on federal land. Congressman Scott Tipton and three other Colorado lawmakers introduced the bill, which would require governors to work with local authorities, such as County Commissioners and Indian Tribe leaders, to come up with forest and BLM land management decisions that deal with wildfire prevention. The sticking point seems to be the removal of dead or dying trees infected by the bark beetle. The measure refers to high risk areas, which can be translated as those with high quantities of the infected or dead trees. It’s not clear what the BLM’s objections are based on, but they have publicly opposed the measure. The Healthy Forest Management Act has overwhelming support in the west. Club 20, which said it would only support the measure if governors were required to consult with local officials before decisions are made, has endorsed the Act.
CONGRESSMAN WANTS ANSWERS REGARDING OIL AND GAS INPUT INTO FRACKING REGS
Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner is questioning the extent to which the Bureau of Land Management is considering the feedback of oil and gas producing states in its attempt to create federal regulations for hydraulic fracturing. While the BLM claims to have sought feedback from a wide range of sources, including state governments,Gardner’s office has been told a different story. That’s according to a letter he wrote to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Gardner has asked Salazar to provide more details on which oil and gas producing states were consulted and how the feedback those states provided shaped the proposed regulations for hydraulic fracturing. Gardner also calls the BLM’s cost benefit analysis into question, given that its numbers vary significantly from a more in-depth study done by Western Energy Alliance. The letter was signed by 63 members, including 2 Democrats.
PARKS AND WILDLIFE TO HOLD WOMEN’S CAST & BLAST IN STEAMBOAT
Colorado Parks and Wildlife will cater to the women of Steamboat August 4th. The agency is holding their women-only Cast & Blast. The Cast & Blast is a seminar that teaches people the finer points of fly fishing and shooting. The August 4th class is strictly for ladies. No experience is necessary and all equipment will be provided. Although the program is free, there is a $15 deposit required to reserve a space and a lunch. It starts at 8:30 in the morning and lasts through mid afternoon. The location of the program won’t be revealed to you until you’ve registered. You can do that by calling 870-2855.
MOFFAT COUNTY FAIR EVENTS TAKING PLACE THIS WEEK
The bulk of events for the Moffat County Fair are still a couple of weeks away, but there are a few events going on over the next couple of days. The Archery Completion Shoot is today and tomorrow. The location hasn’t been revealed for liability reasons, as the shoot is taking place on private property. The Shotgun Completion Shoot is tomorrow at the Craig Trap Club at 6:30. The public is encouraged to attend and support the kids as they try to make the state team. The final shooting event will take place Saturday. The .22 Rifle Completion Shoot will be held at the Bear’s Ears Sportsman’s Club. Early check-in for fairground entries will take place July 30th. If you’d like a complete schedule of this year’s fair, click on the Moffat County Fair tile on this page.
COLORADO LEGISLATORS ASK FEDS FOR MORE HELP AFTER FIRES
Legislators in Colorado have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, for more federal help for the victims of the High Park and Waldo Canyon wildfires. In a letter to FEMA the state’s lawmakers said the destruction was worse than originally thought and that Colorado needs more help. Specifically, they’re asking for help providing housing support and other financial assistance for Colorado families and businesses. President Barack Obama declared Colorado a federal disaster area June 28 – a designation that unleashes federal dollars and support.
GROUP ASKS HICKENLOOPER NOT TO REFILL TRUSTEE POSITIONS
Americans for Prosperity Colorado, a nationwide organization that focuses on economic responsibility, is asking Governor Hickenlooper NOT to refill the state’s 10 public trustee positions that were temporarily vacated due to reports of fiscal irresponsibility. AFP says they applaud the governor for removing the trustees and forcing them to re-apply after ethical questions were raised. But they say refilling the positions would be a show of fiscal irresponsibility in itself. They say the duties the trustees were performing typically fall under the duties of the County Treasurer, and in all but 10 of Colorado’s counties, that is the case. They say it would be financially wise to permanently eliminate those positions and put those responsibilities back on the treasurer. The governor’s office has yet to respond.
VANDALS STRIKE COLORADO DEMOCRATIC PARTY HEADQUARTERS
Almost a dozen windows were shattered at the Colorado Democratic Party Headquarters in an alleged act of vandalism over the weekend. Officials say 11 large double-paned windows were broken between Saturday afternoon and yesterday morning at the party’s office. Police say the windows may have been broken with a hammer or sledgehammer.
AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK ANNOUNCES NEW OBAMA ADMINISTRATION EFFORTS TO ASSIST FARMERS AND RANCHERS IMPACTED BY DROUGHT
WASHINGTON, July 23, 2012-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced new flexibility and assistance in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s major conservation programs to get much-needed help to livestock producers as the most wide-spread drought in seven decades intensifies in the United States. Vilsack also announced plans to encourage crop insurance companies to provide a short grace period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums, as some farming families can be expected to struggle to make ends meet at the close of the crop year.
“President Obama and I are committed to getting help to producers as soon as possible and sustaining the success of America’s rural communities through these difficult times,” said Vilsack. “Beginning today, USDA will open opportunities for haying and grazing on lands enrolled in conservation programs while providing additional financial and technical assistance to help landowners through this drought. And we will deliver greater peace of mind to farmers dealing with this worsening drought by encouraging crop insurance companies to work with farmers through this challenging period. As severe weather and natural disasters continue to threaten the livelihoods of thousands of our farming families, we want you and your communities to know that USDA stands with you.”
The assistance announced uses the Secretary of Agriculture’s existing authority to help create and encourage flexibility within four USDA programs: the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and the Federal Crop Insurance Program.
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
To assist farmers and ranchers affected by drought, Vilsack is using his discretionary authority to allow additional acres under CRP to be used for haying or grazing under emergency conditions. CRP is a voluntary program that provides producers annual rental payments on their land in exchange for planting resource conserving crops on cropland to help prevent erosion, provide wildlife habitat and improve the environment. CRP acres can already be used for emergency haying and grazing during natural disasters to provide much needed feed to livestock. Given the widespread nature of this drought, forage for livestock is already substantially reduced. The action today will allow lands that are not yet classified as “under severe drought” but that are “abnormally dry” to be used for haying and grazing. This will increase available forage for livestock. Haying and grazing will only be allowed following the local primary nesting season, which has already passed in most areas. Especially sensitive lands such as wetlands, stream buffers and rare habitats will not be eligible.
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
To assist farmers and ranchers affected by drought, Vilsack is using his discretionary authority to provide assistance to farmers and ranchers by allowing them to modify current EQIP contracts to allow for prescribed grazing, livestock watering facilities, water conservation and other conservation activities to address drought conditions. EQIP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers on their land to address natural resource concerns on agricultural and forest land. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will work closely with producers to modify existing EQIP contracts to ensure successful implementation of planned conservation practices. Where conservation activities have failed because of drought, NRCS will look for opportunities to work with farmers and ranchers to re-apply those activities. In the short term, funding will be targeted towards hardest hit drought areas.
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
To assist farmers and ranchers affected by drought, Vilsack is using his discretionary authority to authorize haying and grazing of WRP easement areas in drought-affected areas where such haying and grazing is consistent with conservation of wildlife habitat and wetlands. WRP is a voluntary conservation easement program that provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers to restore and protect valuable wetland resources on their property. For producers with land currently enrolled in WRP, NRCS has expedited its Compatible Use Authorization (CUA) process to allow for haying and grazing. The compatible use authorization process offers NRCS and affected producers with the management flexibility to address short-term resource conditions in a manner that promotes both the health of the land and the viability of the overall farming operation.
Federal Crop Insurance Program
To help producers who may have cash flow problems due to natural disasters, USDA will encourage crop insurance companies to voluntarily forego charging interest on unpaid crop insurance premiums for an extra 30 days, to November 1, 2012, for spring crops. Policy holders who are unable to pay their premiums in a timely manner accrue an interest penalty of 1.25 percent per month until payment is made. In an attempt to help producers through this difficult time, Vilsack sent a letter to crop insurance companies asking them to voluntarily defer the accrual of any interest on unpaid spring crop premiums by producers until November. In turn, to assist the crop insurance companies, USDA will not require crop insurance companies to pay uncollected producer premiums until one month later.
Thus far in 2012, USDA has designated 1,297 counties across 29 states as disaster areas, making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans. Increasingly hot and dry conditions from California to Delaware have damaged or slowed the maturation of crops such as corn and soybeans, as well as pasture- and range-land. Vilsack has instructed USDA subcabinet leaders to travel to affected areas to augment ongoing assistance from state-level USDA staff and provide guidance on the department’s existing disaster resources. To deliver assistance to those who need it most, the Secretary recently reduced the interest rate for emergency loans from 3.75 percent to 2.25 percent, while lowering the reduction in the annual rental payment to producers on CRP acres used for emergency haying or grazing from 25 percent to 10 percent. Vilsack has also simplified the Secretarial disaster designation process and reduced the time it takes to designate counties affected by disasters by 40 percent.
USDA agencies have been working for weeks with state and local officials, as well as individuals, businesses, farmers and ranchers, as they begin the process of helping to get people back on their feet. USDA offers a variety of resources for states and individuals affected by the recent disasters. For additional information and updates about USDA’s efforts, please visit www.usda.gov/drought.
The Obama Administration, with Agriculture Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, has worked tirelessly to strengthen rural America, maintain a strong farm safety net, and create opportunities for America’s farmers and ranchers. U.S. agriculture is currently experiencing one of its most productive periods in American history thanks to the productivity, resiliency, and resourcefulness of our producers. A strong farm safety net is important to sustain the success of American agriculture. USDA’s crop insurance program currently insures 264 million acres, 1.14 million policies, and $110 billion worth of liability on about 500,000 farms. In response to tighter financial markets, USDA has expanded the availability of farm credit, helping struggling farmers refinance loans. In the past 3 years, USDA provided 103,000 loans to family farmers totaling $14.6 billion. Over 50 percent of the loans went to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers.