The Obama budget proposal would arguably reduce the national debt by $1.1 trillion in the next 10 years through a combination of cuts, spending freezes and tax increases. About one-third of the Obama deficit reduction would be reached by raising taxes, and two-thirds of the reduction would come from spending cuts, many to popular programs, including several to programs that further ecosystem restoration, and land and water conservation in the Mississippi River watershed.
The Administration proposes to fund a Mississippi River Basin program in 2012 at a level of $6.6 million (although not funded in Fiscal Year 2011, the Administration proposed to fund this program at a $17 million level in its fiscal 2011 budget proposal). The EPA Budget in Brief describes the program as a competitive grant program in cooperation with States that will address excessive nutrient loadings contributing "to water quality impairments in the basin and, ultimately, to hypoxic conditions (dead zones) in the Gulf of Mexico." The EPA budget brief goes on to say that, "Working with the Gulf Hypoxia Task Force, EPA will help target efforts within critical watersheds to implement effective strategies that can yield significant progress in addressing nonpoint source nutrient pollution. A key emphasis will be coordinating with USDA and USGS to promote sustainable agricultural practices, to reduce nutrient loadings in the Mississippi River Basin and to implement monitoring programs to measure nutrient reductions." The proposed $6.6 million budget Includes $0.6M for "enforcement actions in the Basin."
- SRF programs would be reduced $947 million from Fiscal Year 2010 appropriated levels to $2,540 million. SRFs provide grants to States to capitalize their State-run revolving funds, which provide loans to support improvements in municipal wastewater and drinking water systems. The Administration contends in its "Terminations, Reductions and Savings" document, accompanying the budget release, that the proposed SRF funding levels, while representing cuts from "historically high funding levels provided in 2010," are not draconian in the sense that they are a "total of $1 billion more than provided in regular appropriations in 2009."
- Nonpoint Source Grants would be reduced $36 million from Fiscal Year 2010 appropriated levels to $201 million. Through these grants, States fund nonpoint source staff, watershed planning, and project implementation to address water pollution runoff from urban, agricultural, and other sources.
- Agricultural Management Assistance Program: $3 million - provides cost share assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control by incorporating conservation into their farming operations.
- Agricultural Water Enhancement Program: $60 million - operated under EQIP, AWEP promotes the conservation of ground and surface water and the improvement of water quality.
- Conservation Reserve Program: $1.995 billion - CRP provides technical and financial assistance to eligible farmers and ranchers to address soil, water, and related natural resource concerns on their lands in an environmentally beneficial and cost-effective manner. The program provides assistance to farmers and ranchers in complying with Federal, State, and tribal environmental laws, and encourages environmental enhancement.
- Conservation Stewardship Program: $788 million - CSP is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance on Tribal and private agricultural working lands to support ongoing conservation stewardship. The program provides payments to producers who maintain and enhance the condition of natural resources.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program: $1.408 billion - EQIP provides assistance to landowners who face serious natural resource challenges that impact soil, water and related natural resources, including grazing lands, wetlands, and wildlife habitat.
- Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program: $200 million - FRPP provides funding for the purchase of conservation easements or other interests in land for the purpose of protecting agricultural use and related conservation values by limiting non-agricultural uses of the land.
- Grasslands Reserve Program: $67 million - GRP is a voluntary program to help landowners and operators restore and protect grassland, including rangeland, pastureland, and certain other lands, while maintaining the lands’ suitability for grazing.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education: $15 million - The SARE program advances the growth of farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program.
- Wetlands Reserve Program: $785 million - WRP is a voluntary program in which landowners are paid to retire cropland from agricultural production if those lands are restored to wetlands and protected, in most cases, with a long-term or permanent easement.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program: $73 million - WHIP provides financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to develop habitats for upland wildlife, wetland wildlife, threatened and endangered species, and fish and other types of wildlife.
We are reviewing the Press Book now for further details on the Army Corps of Engineers Civil Works budget related to Mississippi River Basin navigation, operation and maintenance, other construction and environmental restoration, although, in general, nationally, "environmental projects" are cut significantly from the appropriated 2010 fiscal year's $795 million to $221 million in the President's 2012 proposal; "aquatic ecosystems" program funding is cut from $39 million (2010) to $12 million (2012 proposal), and "project modification for environmental restoration" would be reduced from $22 million (2010) to $18 million (2012).
What's Next - A House vote on the CR may occur as soon as late this week. Once the 2011 Fiscal Year CR passes the House, it will then move on to the Senate, where many of the House's spending cuts will undoubtedly be removed, setting up a showdown between the House and Senate. The two chambers will have to work out a compromise by March 4, when the current CR expires, to avoid a potential government shutdown. Alternatively, the possibility exists that Congress will pass yet another short-term CR to keep the government running while the two chambers work out their differences.