Washington, D.C., November 6, 2006—“We can have all the conservation and farm stewardship programs in the world,” says Ralph Grossi, President of American Farmland Trust (AFT), “but without adequate funding, they become nothing but lost opportunities for cleaner air and water, improved wildlife habitat and protected farmland and open space.” Grossi commented on a letter sent to President Bush that AFT and more than 20 other organizations signed. “The conservation provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill are clearly improving the environment as the most robust conservation title ever enacted, more could have been achieved had Congress and the Administration fully funded conservation programs at the levels negotiated and agreed to in the 2002 Farm Bill,” they write.
“Many people do not realize that nearly half the land in American is working farm and ranchland,” says AFT President Ralph Grossi. “Using this land to produce food, fiber and energy has an enormous impact on our natural and human environment. Current conservation levels are insufficient to meet the needs of farmers—so while farmers and ranchers want to protect the land, three out of every four who apply for conservation funding are turned down due to a lack of funds.”
In their letter to President Bush, the organizations noted that application backlogs at the end of
FY 2005 totaled more than $2.5 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Wetlands Reserve Program, the Grassland Reserve Program, the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. In addition, farmers and ranchers in 88 percent of the nation’s watersheds have not yet had even their first chance to enroll in the Conservation Security Program.
AFT proposed comprehensive recommendations to improve U.S. farm policy and strengthen the future of American agriculture in its Agenda 2007: A New Framework and Direction for U.S. Farm Policy, including numerous conservation proposals. Specific recommendations for natural resources conservation in Agenda 2007 include: simplifying the conservation application process to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to participate in current programs; doubling the funding for working lands conservation to help farmers and ranchers care for our nation’s resources; and creating a conservation loan guarantee program to help producers finance additional conservation programs.
The letter to President Bush follows:
November 6, 2006
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As you prepare the fiscal year 2008 Department of Agriculture budget, we write to strongly support funding of conservation programs at no less than current full authorized levels. The diverse group of organizations signing this letter believes cooperative conservation efforts are vital to ensuring the sustainability and profitability of American producers and protecting and restoring the environment so important to all Americans.
The conservation provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill are clearly improving the environment as the most robust conservation title ever enacted. Future generations will benefit from the significant improvements already realized as result of that legislation - through reduced soil erosion and improved soil quality, restoration of wetlands, improvements in water and air quality, increased conservation of limited water supplies, and protection of important wildlife habitat and improved forest health. More could have been achieved, however, had Congress and the Administration fully funded conservation programs at the levels negotiated and agreed to in the 2002 Farm Bill.
Demand for financial and technical assistance through voluntary conservation incentive programs continues to exceed available funding. At the end of fiscal year 2005, conservation program application backlogs from farmers and ranchers who want to do more to protect the environment totaled more than $2.5 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP), the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). In addition, farmers and ranchers in 88 percent of the nation’s watersheds have not yet had even their first chance to enroll in the Conservation Security Program. To respond to this unprecedented commitment from private landowners all across this nation, increased funding in the 2007 Farm Bill will be crucial. In the meantime, anything less than full funding at current authorized levels in the FY 2008 budget request will send the wrong signal and only serve to delay the assistance that farmers, ranchers, and forest owners need to apply conservation measures on the land. It is essential that the budget also include sufficient funding for conservation operations, including conservation technical assistance, to provide planning and implementation expertise to landowners, including those that may not be seeking financial assistance.
Thank you for your consideration of our request. We look forward to working with you to maintain the viability and success of these programs of critical importance to our farmers, ranchers, forest landowners, and rural, suburban, and urban citizens, as the fiscal year 2008 budget is developed.
American Bird Conservancy
American Farmland Trust
American Forest Foundation
American Tree Farm System
Chesapeake Bay Commission
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Defenders of Wildlife
Izaak Walton League
Mississippi River Basin Alliance
National Audubon Society
National Association of Conservation Districts
National Association of State Conservation Agencies
National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges
National Association of State Foresters
National Wildlife Federation
National Woodland Owners Association
Soil and Water Conservation Society
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
The Nature Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land
Union of Concerned Scientists
The Honorable Robert Portman- Director of the Office of Management and Budget
The Honorable Mike Johanns- Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture
The Honorable Robert Goodlatte- Chairman, Committee on Agriculture
The Honorable Collin Peterson- Ranking Member, Committee on Agriculture
The Honorable Saxby Chambliss- Chairman, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
The Honorable Tom Harkin- Ranking Member, Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
The Honorable Robert Bennett- Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies on the Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Herbert Kohl- Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies on the Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Henry Bonilla- Chairman, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies on the Committee on Appropriations
The Honorable Rosa DeLauro- Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies on the Committee on Appropriations