For several years, Congress has been frustrated with how conservation programs from the 2002 Farm Bill have been paid. Technical assistance was paid out of the allocated funds for key conservation programs.
On Monday, the House of Representatives passed S. 2856 that provides full funding for technical assistance separate from each program's funds. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss., passed the Senate in early October and will now go to the president.
"I am pleased that the House of Representatives has joined with the Senate in realizing the importance of correcting this problem," Harkin says. "USDA's method of funding technical assistance for farm bill conservation programs has cost producers and private landowners more than $200 million that could have been used to further protect our natural resources. I hope the president realizes the importance of this funding and signs the legislation."
Over the past two years, farmers, ranchers and landowners have missed out on millions of dollars in conservation funds provided in the farm bill for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program, Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP). Those funds have been transferred to pay for technical assistance for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).