June 11, 2014
On Wednesday, June 11, NSAC and 34 other national organizations delivered a letter to the House of Representatives in opposition to the $536 million in conservation cuts contained in the House FY 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.
The letter was delivered as the House begins consideration of the bill today. The House bill cuts mandatory farm bill funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $209 million, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) by $60 million, and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) by $109 million, which would remove more than 1 million acres from the program. The Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill reduces funding for EQIP to $1.35 billion, which is $250 million less than the funding level provided by the 2014 Farm Bill.
“As the FY 2015 House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations bills proceed to the House and Senate floor and to conference, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of people across the country, write to thank you for including additional funding for rental payments within USDA’s Conservation Operations budget and to urge you to oppose cuts to mandatory funding for Farm Bill agricultural conservation programs,” the letter states.
Nearly all of the conservation funding authorized in the Farm Bill is direct, or “mandatory,” funding, which means that the funding comes automatically and directly from the Treasury. Appropriators typically deal with annual discretionary funding, as opposed to mandatory funding. However, there is a backdoor mechanism—called Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS)—by which appropriations legislation can cut mandatory spending in order to free up additional dollars for them to spend on discretionary programs.
“After several years of negotiations, Congress recently passed the Agriculture Act of 2014 with broad bipartisan support,” the letter continues. “The Farm Bill renewed a suite of extremely popular and effective conservation programs, but reduced mandatory funding by $4 billion. It is critical that Congress ensure that all of direct spending on conservation programs, as provided by the authorizing committees in the Farm Bill, can be spent as Congress intended in FY 2015.”
Between the cuts made to conservation programs by the 2014 Farm Bill and the cuts that will be applied automatically through what is known as sequestration, new enrollments in conservation programs will decline by millions of acres in FY 2015.
The House is expected to begin voting on amendments tomorrow, and may not finish voting until next week. The Senate has yet to bring its version of the bill to the floor. As the House and Senate move toward passing and conferencing their respective bills, we will continue to strongly oppose this attack on conservation spending and the 2014 Farm Bill.