USDA Secretary Vilsack Returning to Iowa to Attend National Pheasant Fest

USDA Secretary Vilsack Returning to Iowa to Attend National Pheasant Fest
Secretary Vilsack Slated to Sign MOU between Pheasants Forever and USDA Agencies

Pheasants Forever's National Pheasant Fest 2010
Pheasants Forever's National Pheasant Fest 2010

Des Moines, Iowa -( Pheasants Forever has confirmed U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will attend National Pheasant Fest 2010. Vilsack, the former Governor of Iowa, is slated to give the keynote address at the Pheasant Fest luncheon on Saturday, February 27th at noon. Immediately following the luncheon, Secretary Vilsack will sign a first-ever Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and Pheasants Forever.

“We are very pleased to have the Secretary joining us at National Pheasant Fest and see this MOU with the NRCS and FSA as an excellent step toward accelerating the delivery of conservation policy to on-the-ground habitat acres,” reported Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Government Affairs.

The MOU establishes the framework for the three groups to work together in partnership toward common goals; specifically the implementation of Farm Bill conservation programs. The MOU allows for the free flow of information between the groups and provides a foundation for Pheasants Forever to deliver conservation technical assistance to farmers, ranchers, and landowners. In this capacity, Pheasants Forever, along with other state wildlife partners, currently employ 50 Farm Bill and Partner Biologists in eight states. The Farm Bill Biologist program is designed to assist landowners in implementing conservation practices on their property. To date, Pheasants Forever Farm Bill Biologists have contacted and consulted 30,000 landowners, resulting in the improvement of 1.3 million acres of land for wildlife.

The Future of CRP
“We are also optimistic that Secretary Vilsack will be bringing us some much needed good news about the Conservation Reserve Program’s future,” added Nomsen. “Every pheasant hunter, particularly our Iowa members, looks across the snow covered landscape today and clearly sees the need for returning significant acres back to the program.”

Originally established in 1985, CRP is in its 25th year. There are currently 31.1 million acres enrolled in the program nationwide, which has seen 6.5 million acres expire in the last three years. Of significant concern is that another 15.4 million acres more are set to expire by the autumn of 2012 without any new sign-ups currently upcoming.

CRP is a voluntary program offering landowners annual payments for 10-15 year contracts for establishing grass, wetlands, shrub, and/or tree cover on their environmentally sensitive lands. Not only have these CRP lands been shown to improve pheasant populations, but CRP is also responsible for improvements in water quality, soil erosion prevention, and the creation of critical habitat for a wide variety of other wildlife species. CRP also helps stabilize farmer’s incomes through annual payments and contributes billions of dollars to the economy annually from hunting expenditures; much of which benefits rural communities.

Pheasant Notes
At a press conference on March 9, 2006, then Governor Vilsack helped Pheasants Forever announce National Pheasant Fest’s first visit to Des Moines in 2007. Iowa bird hunters set an all time low pheasant harvest during the 2008 season with 383,000 roosters bagged. It’s expected the 2009 season total will be even lower than 2008. In the last three years, 389,426 acres of CRP have expired in Iowa. There are currently 1.6 million acres of CRP under contract in Iowa. However, another 422,041 acres are slated to expire in the next three years.
Secretary Vilsack will become the third Secretary of Agriculture to attend National Pheasant Fest. Mike Johanns attended the Des Moines event in 2007 and Chuck Connor attended the Saint Paul event in 2008.
National Pheasant Fest 2010
Pheasant Fest is the country’s largest event for upland hunters, sport dog owners and wildlife habitat conservationists, combining a national outdoor tradeshow, wildlife habitat seminar series, and family event complete with puppies, tractors, shotguns, and art.

Adults – $10 Daily * Ages 6-16 – $5 Daily * Ages 5 and Under – FREE
Weekend Special – $30 (Includes annual Pheasants Forever membership & hat, over $80 value)
To purchase tickets for the Saturday luncheon at Pheasant Fest where Secretary Vilsack will be the keynote speaker, please call Stacy at Pheasants Forever toll free 877.773.2070. Tickets are $30 each.