Who let the dogs out? I mean, who let the big dogs out?

You may recall a column last year in which I spoke about the prospect of the passage of a new Farm Bill with significant increases in conservation funding and used the phrase, “big dogs eat first.”

This common saying in our nation’s capital signifies that in any bill before Congress, the powerful interests typically get their provisions in first.

I suggested that if the Bay advocates were serious about an increase in Farm Bill funding for conservation practices to help meet the Chesapeake 2000 goals, we would have to look beyond the environmental community and partner with some of the big dogs.

Some people responded that there were no big dogs interested in Farm Bill discussions that would take the position of increasing conservation funding.

This past week, however, someone let the big dogs out.

The AFL-CIO sent letters to the Senate and House leadership stating that increased funding for conservation provisions in the Farm Bill was its number one conservation priority.

It appears that 70 percent of the membership of the AFL-CIO and 20 other labor unions are avid outdoorsmen and are concerned about access to land and the loss of habitat.

Some of the other labor unions covered by the AFL-CIO letter include: the United Steel Workers of America, the International Association of Firefighters and the United Mine Workers of America.

In addition to labor unions, Oxfam America has designated the Farm Bill a priority. Oxfam brought Oscar-nominated actor, Djimon Hounsou of “Blood Diamond” fame, to Washington, D.C. to testify about how cotton subsidies are hurting Africa’s poor.

These groups are promoting increased conservation funding in the Farm Bill to enhance wetland conservation and triple funding for wildlife habitat.

The Alliance applauds these efforts of reaching beyond the environmental community to secure funding to increase farms’ economic viability and to help meet environmental goals.

With partnerships like these, we can truly finish the job of restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed.