15 Conservation Groups Oppose Cutting USDA Conservation Program to Pay for Child Nutrition Bill

March 23, 2010

Bill Markup Set for Tomorrow by Senate Agriculture Committee

WASHINGTON, March 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Fifteen conservation groups oppose cutting more than $2 billion dollars from the largest of USDA’s working lands conservation programs, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), to pay for a child nutrition reauthorization bill drafted by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln (D-AR). The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to mark up the bill and vote on it tomorrow (Wednesday).

“This current proposal would not only rob farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners of conservation and environmental stewardship assistance in the next decade, but would take away well over $2 billion from the farm bill conservation baseline, or nearly half of the widely lauded conservation increase in the 2008 Farm Bill,” said the groups in a letter addressed to Sen. Lincoln and the other Senate Agriculture Committee members. “This cut clearly violates the carefully negotiated compromise that you supported in the 2008 Farm Bill.”

“We understand and appreciate the critical need to provide additional funding for the child nutrition school meal programs,” the letter added. “There are other sources for this funding outside of the Farm Bill conservation programs that could be tapped to pay for these needs without taking away from the programs that support farmers and forest landowners in their efforts to provide conservation benefits in addition to food, forest products, and fiber. However, if Farm Bill resources are determined to be the only resort, then fairness demands that the conservation title should not bear the full burden of providing the solution.”

“Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are eager to share the cost of protecting the environment, but demand for participation in conservation programs routinely far outstrips available funding,” the letter concluded. “This proposal will only exacerbate that problem, and will undermine conservation practice adoption on-the-ground. Applied conservation provides clean water, energy conservation, erosion reduction, carbon sinks, improved wildlife habitat, wetland protection, and other important public benefits that should not be lost.”

The 15 conservation groups that signed the letter include:

American Farmland Trust

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Defenders of Wildlife

Environmental Defense Fund

Environmental Working Group

Izaak Walton League of America

National Association of Conservation Districts

National Audubon Society

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Resources Defense Council

Partners for Sustainable Pollination

Pollinator Partnership

Union of Concerned Scientists

World Wildlife Fund

The full text of the letter is at http://www.edf.org/documents/10904_Child_Nutrition_Letter.pdf .

    Sean Crowley, 202-550-6524-c, scrowley@edf.org
    Sara Hopper, 202-572-3379, shopper@edf.org

SOURCE Environmental Defense Fund

Source: newswire

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