WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) have introduced legislation to prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) from penalizing farmers and sportsmen for rolling their fields during hunting season.
Drought conditions this summer in Arkansas and Mississippi caused harvested rice farms to re-head, creating “ratoon” or second growth crops that are often uneconomical to harvest, according to a release from Cochran’s office. The senators say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has now decided to view these ratoon crops that have been rolled as baited fields, even though this practice was recommended by local cooperative extension services as a way to return nutrients to the soil. Inadvertent baiting of a field can level a fine of up to $15,000 or prohibit hunting on the land.
“This is a case of federal agencies working at cross purposes, leaving famers and hunters in a bind. This legislation would clear up that situation so that farmers are not unfairly punished for adhering to normal agriculture practices,” Cochran said.
The Farmer Protection Act of 2012 would allow each state’s cooperative extension service to distinguish between normal agriculture practices and baiting.