On Wednesday, July 21, NSAC, along with over 70 other farm, conservation, and environmental organizations sent a letter to the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a letter to President Obama expressing strong opposition to any use of farm bill conservation program funding as an offset to pay for improvements to school meal programs.
The letters commenced with strong support for the speedy passage of the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R. 5504), otherwise known as the child nutrition reauthorization (CNR) act. The bill includes $50 million in mandatory funding over five years for farm to school programs nationwide that NSAC strongly supports. The letter recognizes the critical need to provide additional funding and improved policy for school meal programs. Click here to view NSAC’s most recent blog on this legislation.
Although advocates united around support for CNR, the letter went on to express fervent opposition to offsets that cut funding to conservation programs. The Senate companion bill to the pending House bill includes $2.8 billion in cuts from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). The House bill does not yet include the funding cuts to other programs or tax loophole closings (“offsets” in congressional budget parlance) that will be needed to pay for the $8 billion nutrition bill.
“Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are eager to share the cost of protecting the environment, and indeed demand for participation in conservation programs routinely far outstrips available funding,” the letter noted. “Applied conservation helps provide clean air and water, energy conservation, erosion reduction, carbon sequestration, wildlife and pollinator habitat, wetland protection, pesticide reduction, and other important public benefits that should not be lost.”
Over 70 organizations signed on to these letters with a clear message: swift passage of the CNR is important for nourishing America’s children, but should not sacrifice conservation programs and the environment to pay for it. As the letter stated, sacrificing an improved environment for improved nutrition “is a false choice, one that is neither in the public interest nor in keeping with progressive values.”