Conservation funding is expected to be heavily boosted as part of the spending proposal, but concerns remain
By Jennifer Whitlock
Farm conservation programs are set to get a big boost in funding under a House Agriculture Committee amendment added to the proposed $ 3.5 trillion budget reconciliation bill, but lawmakers must not create spending programs that are not based on the reality of farming or do not recognize the negative impacts of proposed tax increases to pay for expenses, according to the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB).
The $ 28 billion would be the biggest increase in conservation spending since the historic Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, when the Soil Conservation Act established the first federal agricultural conservation program.
“We are leading the way in helping farmers tackle the climate crisis with a historic investment of $ 28 billion in the Build Back Better budget for climate-smart agriculture,” said the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Climate Change. agriculture, Debbie Stabenow, in a statement. Agri-Pulse. “Our conservation programs are proven and appreciated by farmers, ranchers and foresters. “
Currently, the United States spends just under $ 6 billion a year on U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs.
Under the new plan, many programs administered by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and other agencies would see their funding increase significantly.
The largest allocation, $ 9 billion, would go to the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), which helps farmers and ranchers buy equipment and implement conservation practices through cost-sharing programs.
In FY2022, $ 300 million would be made available, with spending increases to follow each year until 2026, when $ 3.45 billion would be allocated to EQIP activities.
Other programs that would receive increased funding of $ 13 billion in total include the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
Another $ 600 million has been set aside to measure greenhouse gas emission reductions from conservation activities. An additional $ 200 million is specifically earmarked for technical assistance in conservation.
While farmers and ranchers appreciate the increased funding and attention to conservation practices, lawmakers on Capitol Hill must be careful not to create spending envelopes that are not based on the reality of farming, said Laramie Adams, TFB’s national legislative director.
“Conservation programs must be achievable and help farmers and ranchers in a meaningful way. It’s great that these lawmakers want to increase funding for these programs to help farmers and ranchers plant cover crops or conserve water, but these aren’t the only issues these people are facing right now. Adams said. “Agriculture has seen market disruptions, natural disasters, trade wars, falling commodity prices and more. There has to be a holistic approach to these congressional budgets that takes into account what’s going on in rural America. Conservation is good, and we support and promote sustainability practices, but it’s not the only program that needs their attention right now.
Many people involved in the budget process are concerned about “green” farming practices and reducing greenhouse gas emissions while turning a blind eye to other industries that have much greater impacts on the climate, a he noted.
Another area that lawmakers concerned about climate impacts should pay more attention to is the proposed tax hikes that would affect family farms and ranches, Adams said.
“It’s important for DC lawmakers to seek common sense ways to encourage climate-smart practices, which many farming and ranch families already practice. No one cares more about the land and the environment than farmers and ranchers. They understand that if they don’t practice land and water stewardship, it will only hurt their ability to be successful, ”he said. “Congressional leaders who focus on climate-smart agriculture should also seriously consider reviewing the negative tax proposals being discussed as part of the reconciliation. If tax increases take effect, they will wipe out a large number of family farms and ranches across the country. If producers are bankrupted with tax increases, you are only pushing the needle back on climate change because you will see less land conservation and more development. In addition, tax increases will hamper the ability of agriculture to provide food and fiber to consumers.