“The President’s FY 2010 agriculture budget contains some disappointing proposals. Despite his desire to support conservation and agriculture, reductions in conservation spending will make it much more difficult for farmers and ranchers to make changes necessary to protect our air, land and water,” says Jon Scholl, president of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “We are well aware of the difficult economy and fiscal situation our nation faces, but we also recognize the improvements agriculture can bring to the serious environmental challenges we face, including climate change, reduced water quality and the loss of farmland.”
President Obama’s proposed budget would cut hundreds of millions of dollars from conservation programs that was promised under the 2008 Farm Bill.
AFT’s Bob Wagner, senior director of farmland protection programs, laments cuts to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). “This is one of the most cost-effective conservation programs in the budget. Every $1 the federal government invests in protecting farmland through conservation easements and other tools is matched with $3 by farmers, and local and state programs.”
Wagner notes that the president’s budget would cut $30 million in funding in 2010, and $175 million over the next three years if extended. “State and local budgets are under enormous pressure, making the federal FRPP matching money all the more important in protecting farm and ranch land. These lands are a precious and irreplaceable natural resource,” adds Wagner.
Another critical program is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. “This is a working lands conservation program,” says Scholl. “All of the practices we are encouraging landowners to undertake are the kinds of things we want them to do – to install buffer strips between fields and streams and fence livestock out of waterways, for instance.” The EQIP program would be slashed by $250 million in the proposal.
“The one bright spot in the budget is funding for the Conservation Loan Guarantee Program,” says Dennis Nuxoll, AFT senior director of government relations. “This is a program AFT proposed in the 2008 Farm Bill that would provide a supplemental tool in our nation’s conservation toolbox.”
“Farmers and ranchers have repeatedly indicated that conservation system costs limit their ability to apply suitable measures to their land. While the 2008 Farm Bill increased the amount of cost-share funding for conservation, we know not every project that every producer wants to apply onto his land will be funded,” adds Nuxoll. “Producers in the past that wanted to upgrade an irrigation system in order to reduce water use might not be able to do so due to a lack of cost-share assistance. Now with a conservation loan program, producers who want to apply conservation practices can do so with low- or no-interest government and government-backed loans.”
The president’s proposed budget for the USDA can be seen in entirety.