Washington, D.C., June 8, 2012 —American Farmland Trust (AFT) expressed its disappointment in the agriculture appropriations bill reported by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture on June 6, 2012. The appropriations panel cleared, by a voice vote, the fiscal year 2013 spending bill, which cuts NRCS Farm Bill conservation spending by more than $700 million on the fiscal year, or approximately 20 percent.
Jon Scholl, AFT president, observed, “The House appropriators’ indiscriminate cuts came at the same time the Senate Agriculture Committee brought its well-considered and thoughtful conservation program reforms to be debated on the Senate floor. They stand in stark contrast. While we understand the pressures to cut spending given the current fiscal environment, we believe the Senate’s effort to streamline and consolidate programs to make them more cost effective and efficient, is, at the end of the day, the more fiscally responsible course.”
The Senate Agriculture Committee’s bill consolidates 23 existing conservation programs into 13 programs that fulfill four fundamental program functions, achieving $6 billion in deficit reduction over 10 years.
AFT is particularly concerned with the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee’s measure cutting $50 million from the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP) – which equates to a 25 percent reduction from the $200 million mandated for FY 2013 in current law, arbitrarily diminishing a highly successful program that helps agricultural communities protect their land and thrive for the long term. Alternatively, the Senate farm bill thoughtfully merges the functions of FRPP with the Grassland Reserve Program (GRP).
Under the Senate bill, this new, joint function would be served by the Agricultural Lands Easement component of the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, which AFT welcomes, as it retains three core principles: protecting working lands, offering permanent easements and working through partnerships at the local level.
AFT also expressed disappointment that the House Appropriations bill cuts the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $350 million below the FY2013 funding level provided by current law. EQIP provides cost sharing assistance to help producers apply needed conservation practices on their land, thus helping to reduce soil erosion and runoff, protect water quality, improve water conservation and efficiency, and improve wildlife habitat.
American Farmland Trust is the nation's leading conservation organization dedicated to protecting farmland, promoting sound farming practices and keeping farmers on the land. 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.