Washington, D.C., February 5, 2008—“The administration has sent another disappointing signal to the agriculture community this week,” says Ralph Grossi, President of American Farmland Trust. “Their proposed FY 2009 Budget provides inadequate funding for key conservation programs and contains cuts to environmental, bioenergy and nutrition programs—programs U.S. agriculture needs to be competitive in the future and to protect the country’s natural resources that our sector is so dependent on.”
At $95 billion, the administration’s FY09 budget is flat with the FY08 budget expenditures. Nearly
$23 billion is allocated to discretionary programs like research and rural development, while
$72 billion is allocated to mandatory programs like Title I subsidy payments, food stamps and other nutrition programs. Key conservation programs that are cut or eliminated in the proposal include:
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Programs are flat, ignoring the backlog of 2 out of 3 farmers who want to participate, but are turned away for lack of funds;
- The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is funded at $360 million, lower than the baseline funding estimated by Congressional Budget Office;
- Nine conservation programs were given no money at all—five of which get a footnote that their funding “will be established by the passage of the farm bill;” and
- Overall, the Natural Resources Conservation Service of USDA, that administers conservation programs, is cut by $100 million, and the staff reduced by 1,446 staff years.
“We are at the perfect time to chart a better course for U.S. agriculture,” says Grossi. “The final farm bill is being negotiated now, and this would have been a great opportunity for the administration through their budget to demonstrate leadership and help move this important legislative package along. Now is a critical time for the farm bill to reflect the rapidly changing nature of agriculture and increase the efficiency of how the taxpayers investment is spent to support agriculture,” says Grossi.
American Farmland Trust has outlined several strategic areas that deserve the highest priority as the farm bill conference process gets underway in Congress:
- Support and strengthen the Average Crop Revenue safety net program that provides better protection and frees up desperately needed funding;
- Double the funding for farmland protection;
- Increase funding for conservation programs including the EQIP and CSP;
- Create a Conservation Loan Guarantee Program that will help farmers to improve water quality and protect wildlife habitat in concert with the efforts of other local producers;
- Provide mandatory funding for local and healthy foods programs including marketing assistance, community food projects, value-added producer grant programs;
- And expand funding for energy efficiency and on-farm renewable energy projects by fully funding the Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) at $500 million.
“The farm bill is important to all Americans who have an interest in food, fiber and bioenergy. But it is especially important to our nation’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners—to keep them economically viable, to protect and improve our environment, to achieve energy independence and serve those who would otherwise go hungry,” says Grossi. “We must get the farm bill signed now.”
American Farmland Trust is the nation’s leading conservation organization dedicated to saving America’s farm and ranch land, promoting environmentally sound farming practices and supporting a sustainable future for farms. Since its founding in 1980 by a group of farmers and citizens concerned about the rapid loss of farmland to development, AFT has helped save millions of acres of farmland from development and led the way for the adoption of conservation practices on millions more.
AFT’s national office is located in Washington, DC. Phone: 202-331-7300. For more information, visit www.farmland.org.