by Gus Blackwell, Rep.-61

Speaker Pro-Tempore

One of my greatest rewards as a legislator is dealing with constituent problems. However, last week I received calls about a problem that I need your help with. These calls were about a lawsuit concerning the haying and grazing of CRP land. As I investigated the situation it became apparent that this was an example of two pressing problems that we face in America. These are extreme environmentalists and activist judges.

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I found out that a federal judge in western Washington, Judge John C, Coughenour, had issued a Temporary Restraining Order to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA had allowed the temporary haying and grazing of some CRP land due to current commodity conditions. This effort is part of the Critical Feed Usage and results in no loss of payment to the farmer or rancher. This was done after the Farm Service Agency (FSA) had done an environmental impact study and concluded that there would be no significant harm to the environment due to the inherent restrictions in the program. It would still allow the nesting season to occur without problems.

Nevertheless, the National Wildlife Federation and six state affiliates sued the USDA and asked for a temporary restraining order until the judge had a hearing on the matter. Their contention is that the FSA had not done an adequate study on the environmental study and that the nesting season would be damaged. The hearing will be at 8:30 a.m.on July 17 in Federal Court in Seattle Wash.

The problem is that the FSA is sending out notices to those who are haying or grazing the CPR land to stop immediately. That means many farmers in this area will suffer extreme financial hardships trying to comply with this order. Because of the drought conditions in this area, there are few, if any, fields that a rancher can move cattle to. It is even more of a financial hardship for the rancher to buy hay at peak prices instead of being able to hay the CRP land that he would have been able to cut.

So we have an activist judge in Washington state telling farmers and ranchers who own a combined 24 million acres across the Midwest how to take care of their land. The judge is putting questionable damage to a nesting season over the financial survival of these hardworking families. The extreme environmentalists of the National Wildlife Federation have the same priorities of birds over people.

Although there is little that can be done at the state level, I have contacted several groups. The state Farm Bureau has assured me that the American Farm Bureau is working on solving the problem. I have also asked the state Attorney General to file an “amicus” brief with the case in favor of the USDA and FSA. The congressional delegation, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, and the state Department of Agriculture are also doing what they can do to assure a favorable outcome.

I am asking you to call the National Wildlife Federation and tell them how their decision is hurting people here in Oklahoma. Their number is 1-800-802-9919. Please remember to be courteous when you speak to them.

The decision should be made final by this week. Hopefully the activist judge will come down on the side of hardworking families and allow common sense to prevail. As always, you can reach me at home or at the Capitol at 405-557-7384


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