Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) yesterday reintroduced the Hunter and Farmer Protection Act, legislation that would protect farmers from federal penalties levied under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act if they are following best practices provided by their state Cooperative Extension Office. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the government has the authority to regulate hunting seasons for some protected species and prohibit certain actions in the interest of preserving those species.
“Washington has put Arkansas farmers in an impossible position and put our hunting season in jeopardy. Arkansans know better than anyone how to care for our land, we’ve been doing it for generations. And no one has more respect for the intersection of protecting wildlife and working our land. This bill will provide much needed relief to Arkansas farmers and provide a resolution to a problem created by bureaucratic overregulation,” said Cotton.
Donnelly said, “I’m proud to work with my colleague Tom Cotton to make sure our regulations are commonsense for our farmers and hunters. This bill will give farmers the certainty they need to implement the best practices on their farms and prevent unnecessary federal involvement in the hunting season.”
Background: In 2012, farmers in east Arkansas were forced to harvest their crop early because of a regional drought. Late summer rains then yielded a second growth crop, commonly known as ‘ratoon rice’. Local cooperative extension offices across the state advised these farmers to roll their fields—or plow the rice stubble under the soil—, in order to return nutrients to the soil. Under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations, this is considered to be ‘baiting the field’—or attempting to draw ducks and other animals to their farms for sport.
This legislation would amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to ensure farmers who follow the best practices established by their state cooperative extension offices are not then subject to fines from the Federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.