A group of more than 50 ag and conservation organizations urged lawmakers to reject nearly $1 billion in proposed cuts to farm bill conservation programs. In a press statement the organizations are urging the House Appropriations Committee to maintain funding levels. The committee voted in favor of the cuts anyway, and those cuts are wide-ranging.
The groups point out that more than $500 million has been cut from farm bill conservation programs in the current fiscal and more cuts in the next fiscal could jeopardize ag industry and drive up long term costs for environmental mitigation and threaten food security. In a letter sent to committee members, the groups say "these conservation programs are crucial to the health and viability of agriculture and rural America."
The proposed FY2012 appropriations bill includes large cuts to two extremely popular working lands programs, the Conservation Stewardship Program ($210 million cut) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program ($350 million cut). These programs have improved soil, air, and water quality on farms and ranches across the country. There often are more applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program than funds available for the program.
In discussing the appropriations vote, National Association of Conservation Districts President Gene Schmidt says: "While we certainly understand and appreciate the need to balance the nation’s budget, any proposed cuts should be fair and equitable across the board. Unfairly targeting conservation and agriculture would have devastating impacts reaching far beyond rural America. Technical assistance and Farm Bill conservation programs help ensure clean air, clean water and productive soils, in addition to helping decrease energy-use and reduce damage from severe weather and other natural disasters. With increased pressures on working lands to produce food, feed, fuel and fiber for our nation and the world, these programs are needed now more than ever."
In its press statement, NACD notes that the proposed FY2012 ag appropriations legislation includes nearly $1 billion in cuts to conservation programs. Key proposed cuts include the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program.
No matter how the House committee vote goes, the battle over ag funding is far from over. However, with a commitment to cut spending across the board, ag programs will surely feel more pressure as the new fiscal year approaches.
Beyond conservation cuts, the move approved by the Appropriations Committee would also add income limits for those receiving farm payments, cut the program to promote use of blender pumps and biofuel expansion, and the measure cut funding for a measure that would have required more reporting by packers.