Friday, March 1, 2013

Groups Urge Congressional Appropriators to Oppose Further Farm Bill Conservation Cuts

Two dozen environmental, conservation, agriculture and other organizations yesterday urged members of the U.S. House and Senate Appropriations Committees to oppose cuts to mandatory farm bill agricultural conservation programs and discretionary conservation technical assistance in any remaining fiscal year 2013 agriculture appropriations legislation that the committees consider.

In a letter addressed to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL), and House Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY-5) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), the organizations noted that conservation title programs in the Farm Bill had already been "disproportionately targeted for severe cuts in appropriations bills" over recent years through "backdoor 'changes in mandatory program spending' (CHIMPS)," and that the moves, rather than being a money-saving move, were implemented "to offset funding for discretionary programs." In arguing for protection of USDA technical assistance funding, the letter stated that "appropriations bills have cut $60 million from discretionary Conservation Operations spending since 2010," limiting "USDA’s ability to provide the technical assistance necessary to ensure effective delivery of conservation programs to farmers and ranchers."

The current Federal budget continuing resolution expires on March 27. Without an appropriations bill(s) or a new continuing resolution, the Federal government risks a shutdown after that date. The House Appropriations Committee is reportedly drafting a spending bill to extend the current continuing resolution through September 30 for all Federal agencies except those covered by the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs appropriations subcommittees. The bill would directly incorporate the text of the draft Defense and Veterans Affairs spending bills already negotiated and agreed to between the House and Senate Appropriations Committees last year. The continuing resolution may be introduced in the House Appropriations Committee as early as next week.

The full letter can be read here (PDF file).  Copies of the letter were also sent to the each of the other House and Senate committee members.  The organizations signing the letter were:
  • American Farmland Trust
  • American Society of Agronomy
  • Association of State Floodplain Managers
  • Crop Science Society of America
  • Defenders of Wildlife
  • Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
  • Environmental and Energy Study Institute
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Land Trust Alliance
  • National Association of Clean Water Agencies
  • National Association of Conservation Districts
  • National Association of Resource Conservation & Development Councils
  • National Association of State Conservation Agencies
  • National Farmers Union
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
  • National Wildlife Federation
  • Partners for Sustainable Pollination
  • Pollinator Partnership
  • Soil and Water Conservation Society
  • Soil Science Society of America
  • The Izaak Walton League of America
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • The Trust for Public Land
  • Water Environment Federation

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