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Leading US farm, conservation, and wildlife groups unite to protect conservation funding

Having succeeded in protecting funding for the Conservation Title in the 2018 Farm Bill, the groups are collaborating again to protect hard-fought conservation funds and programmes.

3 April 2019, at 10:20am

In a letter delivered this week, the groups, which include the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), National Farmers Union (NFU), National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), National Wildlife Federation (NWF), and American Farmland Trust (AFT), called upon appropriators to respect the funding decisions made in the 2018 Farm Bill and reject any cuts to farm bill conservation funding through the appropriations process.

Farm bill conservation programmes, including the Conservation Stewardship Programme (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Programme (EQIP), Regional Conservation Partnership Programme (RCPP), and Agricultural Conservation Easement Programme (ACEP), play a vital role in helping farmers, ranchers, and landowners to keep their lands sustainable and profitable for generations to come.

“America’s farmers and ranchers worked hard to ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill included support for the conservation programmes they rely upon,” said Alyssa Charney, NSAC Senior Policy Specialist.

“The Agriculture Committees listened when farmers told them what they needed to thrive, and now we are asking congressional appropriators to do the same. The farm bill process is closed; appropriators should seek to build upon the foundation laid by the 2018 Farm Bill, not attempt to undercut it. Appropriators have protected these programmes in their last two funding bills, and we now ask them to continue to do so in FY 2020.”

“As America’s farm and ranch families endure significant environmental and economic challenges, it is as important as ever that we maintain funding for voluntary, incentive-based conservation programmes,” said Roger Johnson, President, NFU. “Congress just last year passed a farm bill with strong provisions and mandatory funding for conservation programmes. Appropriators should reject changes that were settled in the process of crafting the Farm Bill and provide adequate funding to NRCS staff to fulfill their important role in ensuring the sustainability of family farms across the country.”

“Farm Bill conservation programmes are critical to addressing America’s wildlife crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

“We call on lawmakers to reject any efforts to cut mandatory funding for Farm Bill conservation programmes. These effective and widely supported programmes give farmers and ranchers the tools they need to voluntarily restore important habitat for wildlife across America’s working lands and proactively recover at-risk wildlife populations.”

In their letter, the 146 organisations also urged appropriators to protect funding for conservation technical assistance.

“Ensuring full funding of CTA and farm bill programmes will continue to allow conservation districts to work hand-in-hand with NRCS at the local level to deliver conservation on America’s landscapes,” NACD President Tim Palmer said. “Farm bill conservation programmes are essential to our nation’s producers, as well as the consumers of their products. We urge Congress to protect and sustain conservation funding to allow our producers to continue providing a safe, reliable food supply while emphasizing locally-led conservation solutions to improve the quality of our nation’s soil, water and natural resources.”

The wide range of organisations signed on to the letter speaks to how significantly any cuts to conservation programmes and technical assistance would be felt across the country.

“Farm Bill conservation programmes are critical to the efforts of farmers and ranchers across this country to voluntarily protect their land from development and implement environmentally sound farming practices,” said John Piotti, President and CEO of American Farmland Trust.

“At a time when we are losing three acres of farmland per minute, it is absolutely necessary to save every last dollar for these programmes and serve as many farmers and ranchers as possible.”

AFT, NACD, NFU, NSAC, and NWF stand united with the more than 140 co-signed organisations in urging appropriators to protect funding for critical conservation programmes and technical assistance in FY 2020.