Producers can now sign up for the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP is a voluntary program that encourages agricultural and forestry producers to maintain existing conservation activities and adopt additional ones on their operations. Eligible lands include cropland, grassland, prairie, improved pastureland, rangeland, non-industrial private forestland and agricultural land under the jurisdiction of an Indian tribe. Sign-up deadline is Sept. 30. More information is available at www.nrcs.usda.gov/new_csp.

Estate Tax Relief for Agriculture — Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA) and John Salazar (D-CO) have introduced H.R. 3524, the “Family Farm Preservation and Conservation Estate Tax Act.” This legislation will exempt working farm and ranch land from the estate tax, as long as the land is kept in production agriculture. If the land is used or sold for other purposes, a recapture tax would be imposed.

AVMA Issues Livestock Report--The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has widely distributed a report to Congress that questions the validity of a report from the Pew Commission. AVMA CEO Ron DeHaven wrote in a cover letter to U.S. House and Senate members that the Pew document is being used to support HR 1549 and S 619, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). DeHaven told legislators to vote against PAMTA. “We question the methods and outcomes of the Pew Commission’s report on Industrial Farm Animal Production,” he wrote. AVMA’s concerns available at (www.avma.org/PEWresponse) question several sections of the 2008 PEW report (www.ncifap.org) on the sustainability of the nation’s food animal production systems. The AVMA’s response specifically criticizes the following areas:

• The Pew Commission’s process for gaining technical expertise in the Pew technical reports was biased and did not include the findings and suggestions of a significant number of scientists.

• The Pew report identifies antimicrobial resistance, the environment and animal welfare as key issues for veterinary medicine. But AVMA charges that Pew authors fall short of providing substantive information on how to execute a new plan or program.

• The Pew Commission’s recommendations to highly restrict the use of antibiotics in livestock have not been shown to benefit public health. When Denmark and the Netherlands attempted to impose less restrictive bans on antibiotics than those recommended by Pew, those countries found that even a small decrease in antibiotic use severely compromised animal health and welfare and failed to provide significant improvements in human health.
P. Scott Shearer
Vice President
Bockorny Group
Washington, D.C.