Conservation and Local Foods Funding Face First Test
The fiscal year 2009 budget process is underway, and already the important gains we made for conservation and local foods in the 2008 Farm Bill are at risk. The administration is trying to cut funding through the appropriations process—undermining important gains achieved in the 2008 Farm Bill. Take action now and tell Congress to preserve the funding levels crafted over many years in the farm bill. Spending levels for conservation, local foods and specialty crops are a result of a delicate balance in negotiations and should not be overturned less than 60 days after the enactment of the farm bill.
Cuts are proposed for several conservation programs that provide important funds for the environment to assist farmers and ranchers in applying conservation measures on their land. In addition, cuts are proposed to funds that supply fresh fruits and vegetables for school lunch programs and assistance to fruit and vegetable growers.
USDA Seeking Public Comment on Climate Change
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public comments on its effort to prepare a Strategic Plan for Climate Change Research, Education, and Extension. The Agency recently prepared a major scientific assessment of the effects of climate change on agriculture, land resources, water resources, and biodiversity in the United States. Comments are due by September 19th. American Farmland Trust is actively working to engage farmers and ranchers on solutions to reduce and offset greenhouse gases. For more information about the important role agriculture can play in reducing the effects of climate change, review the agriculture section in the Presidential Climate Action Plan (PDF 7.5MB) released late last year, which AFT helped draft.
Much Ado About a Consequential Conservation Program
The Conservation Reserve Program protects environmentally fragile agricultural land by rewarding farmers with payments for removing the land from production and restoring it to grassland or other cover. The program, our nation's largest and most successful conservation effort aimed at the stewardship of sensitive lands, was recently under pressure to potentially allow millions of acres back into production—due to rising crop prices, floods and drought. In a commendable decision made by USDA Secretary Ed Schafer, requests for early release of land from the program were declined unless previous payments received for protecting the environmentally fragile acres were paid back.