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Appropriations Bills Move Forward; Senate Adds FRPP Funding and Language
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July 5, 2006

The House and Senate each are moving forward with their respective versions of the FY 07 agricultural spending bill. In May, the House approved its $93.8 billion bill (HR 5384) while the Senate Appropriations Committee recently reported out a $94.5 billion bill to be taken up by the full Senate. Funding for working lands conservation programs took a significant hit in both bills, although the programs fared slightly better in the Senate bill than they did in the House.

One of the biggest losers in the House bill is the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP), which appropriators cut by 48 percent to $50 million. The cuts came although 54 members representing 23 states demonstrated their support for the program in a letter sent to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies.

The program received a slightly better mark in the Senate proposal, although the $58 million proposal represents a $39 million cut from authorized levels. The Senate bill also includes language that requires NRCS to implement FRPP in accordance with the FRPP final rule promulgated in 2003. Provided by Senator Patrick Leahy, this language is intended to prevent NRCS from instituting several controversial changes to the program proposed in the 2006 Announcement of Program Funding.   

The bills also propose cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program (GWSC) and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP). The proposed cuts come at a time when conservation programs are unable to meet the demand for tools that help farmers and ranchers protect the water supply, maintain wildlife habitat and conserve farmland for future generations.

In addition to cutting working lands conservation programs, the House bill proposes to reduce funding for the NRCS Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) Program by $42 million below FY 06 levels. The Senate bill increases CTA funding by $2 million over FY 06 levels. The program is the foundation for all conservation assistance efforts at the NRCS and enables the agency to help farmers and ranchers address natural resource issues on their land.

One program that did very well on the Senate side was the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). The program enables landowners to protect, restore and enhance wetlands on their property through restoration agreements and long-term or permanent easements. The program is central to President Bush’s wetlands initiative that set a goal of protecting over three million acres of wetlands by 2009. The Senate bill proposes to return funding for the WRP to its fully-authorized level for the first time since FY 03.         

Table 1. Proposed conservation program spending levels for FY 07

Program

Farm Bill FY 07 Baseline

House Appropriations
FY 07 Proposal

Senate Appropriations  FY 07 Proposal

Conservation Security Program

Uncapped

$28o million

$372 million

Conservation Technical Assistance

Discretionary

$653.7 million

$697 million

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

$1.3 billion

$1.087 billion

$1.031 billion

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

$97 million

$50 million

$58 million

Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program

$60 million

$51 million

$54 million

Wetlands Reserve Program

250,000 acres

144.776 acres

250,000 acres

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program

$85 million

$55 million

$63 million

 
American Farmland Trust