WASHINGTON - Fifth-generation Oklahoma cattle rancher Chuck Coffey testified on behalf of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association regarding the value of voluntary conservation efforts. Coffey testified at the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry’s hearing to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation programs.
“USDA’s conservation programs have been a great asset to cattle producers and it is important that these programs be implemented in a practical, producer friendly, and voluntary manner to ensure that cattlemen can continue to responsibly produce the world’s safest, most nutritious, and affordable protein,” said Coffey.
Chuck and his wife, Ruth, operate a cattle ranch in south central Oklahoma, where they own and operate over 30,000 acres of grassland. Chuck said though ranching in south central Oklahoma comes with its fair share of difficulties, by working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to use voluntary conservation programs and apply management practices that enhance their operation, they have been able to keep their operation sustainable even during the drought in 2011 and 2012.
Coffey grazes his cattle with a carefully managed grazing plan developed with the assistance of the NRCS. Through cooperation with state and local agencies, in addition to the development of innovative grazing strategies, Coffey said they have increased perennial grasses on the ranch, improved ground cover, greatly reduced soil erosion, and ensured adequate forage for livestock and wildlife.
“Since our livelihood is made on the land, the utilization of our natural resources, and being good stewards of the land, not only makes good environmental sense, it is fundamental for our industry to remain strong, “said Coffey. “We strive to operate as environmentally friendly as possible, and it is through voluntary conservation programs that ranchers will continue to be proud partners with the government to reach our environmental conservation goals.”
As Congress begins the process of developing the next Farm Bill, Coffey stressed ‘voluntary’ is the key to making conservation programs work for farmers and ranchers.
“The biggest point I’d like you to take away from this hearing is that the “voluntary” part of the conservation programs is what really makes it work for ranchers,” said Coffey. “If they were to become mandatory, the rules and regulations that farmers and ranchers would be subjected to would make it harder for them to utilize the unique conservation practices that help their individual operations thrive.”