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Home > Natural Resources > Land Management for Sustainable Communities and Natural Resources

Conservation Cuts in the Farm Bill have a $10,000:$1 ratio

Conservation funding has been cut and corn subsidies held. Congress is slashing conservation for the sake of commodities subsidies for 2009.

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For every $10,000 in crop subsidies Congress sends to the most heavily polluting counties in the Corn Belt, just one dollar is spent on conservation.

In the 124 counties that cause 40% of spring nitrate fertilizer pollution, the ratio between subsidies and conservation spending is 500 to one.1 Tens of thousands of farmers are turned away from USDA conservation programs every year because Congress cuts the budgets.

Craig Cox, Midwest Vice President of Environmental Working Group, (September 2008) summarized Congress's conservation funding cuts and their impact, "It is no wonder, that agriculture remains the number one source of water pollution in the nation."

And the situation is likely to get worse. Corn acreage, potentially the most environmentally damaging, hit a 50-year high in 2007. As farmers plant fencerow to fencerow to take advantage of subsidies and a strong market, conservation funding is needed more than ever before.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that producers took 2.7 million acres of environmentally sensitive land out of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) in 2007 and predicts that another 9.3 million acres will leave the CRP by 2010. If these projections prove accurate, the CRP will shrink by nearly one-third -- threatening wildlife habitat and exacerbating the risk of soil erosion and polluted runoff.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) takes the brunt -- 86 percent -- of the conservation cuts. EQIP is the centerpiece of the nation's effort to help producers conserve soil, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat on their working farms and ranches. Yet the Senate Committee cuts this critical program by 21 percent, denying $285 million to farmers and ranchers who want to improve the way they are conserving resources and protecting the environment. In 2007, lack of funding forced the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resource Conservation Service to turn away 40,000 producers who wanted to participate in EQIP.2 The cuts Congress is proposing would increase that funding shortfall from $860 million to over $1.2 billion.

Other important programs are also slated for significant spending reductions: Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) cut 13 percent, Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) cut 23 percent, Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA) cut 33 percent, and the Farmland and Ranchland Protection Program cut by 12 percent.

Read more from Environmental Working Group

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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