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Ken Burns new documentary, “The Dust Bowl,” depicts a full-blown ecological disaster, the likes of which never had been seen in America.
The dust storms that swept across Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas and other Great Plains states in the late 1920s and early 1930s were largely caused by the combination of drought and high winds on a landscape that had seen the near total conversion of native grasslands and wetlands to row crop production.
As I write this, similar conversions of native grasslands and wetlands are occurring alarmingly quickly. I have to wonder: Is federal farm policy helping write the script for a new Dust Bowl?
In the last several years, crop prices have steadily increased. As many of you know, corn and soybean prices hit a record high this summer. These high crop prices create immense pressure to convert marginally productive grasslands, wetlands and forestlands to row crops.
Federal crop insurance policy removes much of the risk associated with converting these marginal acres. Unlike every other federal farm program, crop insurance does not require farmers to be “conservation compliant.” This means that crop insurance benefits can be maintained even when farmers convert ecologically valuable wetlands, grasslands and till highly erodible lands.
How do we stop history from repeating itself? By passing a strong federal Farm Bill that includes measures addressing conservation compliance.
I can only hope that the black-and-white images of families living inside dusty houses with potato sacks over their heads will capture the attention of our elected officials tasked as they work toward passing the next farm bill. Or maybe the testimony of beautiful, old, wise faces telling of their parents’ mental breakdowns from the devastation catch the eye of members of the House Committee on Agriculture.
We can’t afford to let history repeat itself this time. Contact your member of Congress and ask him or her to take action on the Farm Bill and make sure that the conservation programs that have helped to prevent environmental calamities like the Dust Bowl are strengthened.
President of Sundog, Inc., a business development firm based in Fayetteville, Ark., that focuses on agriculture, alternative energy and green products, Tim Kizer is also the private lands field representative for the TRCP.
Sometimes you have to leave something behind to truly appreciate it.
I find I relearn that lesson each time I deploy to a foreign land. I miss my family and friends the most, as is expected. Thanks to technology I receive emails from home, discussing everything from kids to the change in seasons and excursions into the woods to hunt. I am grateful for these snippets of daily life because they make me appreciate how much freedom we have.
This Veterans Day, I am deployed once again on foreign soil in support of our national interests. I am proud to serve, but at the same time, I am thinking of home and longing to be with family.
An image that comes to my mind when I think about home is stepping out into the cold morning with my loyal black Lab. I watch him excitedly chase some type of feathered creature that always seems to land just out of range or flush just a bit too low for a safe shot.
I can taste and feel the bite of cold as I take a deep breath and enjoy the fellowship of the hunt with a close friend as we map out the best strategy to move through a field or drop out decoys. So often we know our grand plan will fail, but simply being outside is the magic that makes the day.
Those memories represent the opportunity to share the moment outside, in a free country surrounded with the beauty of a magnificent landscape. Being deployed reminds me again how special that freedom is.
Enjoy Veterans Day and the freedom it represents. I support organizations such as the TRCP and other like-minded conservation groups. They are our guardians back home while we guard from afar. Because of their efforts, when I come home I have a place to hunt and fish. I encourage you to take the time to call your brother-in-law, uncle, friend or whoever you like to hunt with, and head out. Don’t worry whether you bag some game or not. Just enjoy the day afield and the freedom that has been earned.
I want to acknowledge how deeply grateful I am for the men and women who have served before me and laid the groundwork of freedom upon which I currently stand. Without their stewardship and professionalism, I wouldn’t have the freedom I cherish and expect as a U.S. citizen. In honor of Veterans Day, I encourage you to step outside with a friend or a family member and enjoy the freedom that has been granted to each of us.
Lieutenant Colonel G. Brent Cummings
United States, Army
Beginning in 2007, Lt. Col. Cummings served nearly 15 months in Iraq as part of the 2nd Surge Brigade with the 216th Infantry Brigade. He then served as Commander of as the U.S. Army Airborne School at Ft. Benning. He is currently deployed in the Middle East.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More