(Washington, D.C.) The Senate agricultural committee marked up the 900-page farm bill today, the same day that Sara Hopper, director of agricultural policy for the Environmental Defense Fund, testified before a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture regarding the need to engage farmers and other conservation partners in land, water and wildlife conservation through the 2012 farm bill, which appears to be gaining momentum on both sides of the aisle, and in both houses of Congress.
"It’s important for Congress to get a farm bill done this year, and the action today by the Senate Agriculture Committee to report a bill represents an important step in the process," said Sara Hopper. "More importantly, the work that leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have done over the past few months demonstrates a continuing, strong commitment to conservation – even in the face of significant budget pressures."
At a time when increasing global demand for food is intensifying pressure on America’s land and water resources, it is more critical now than ever to maintain and strengthen conservation programs, which help farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners produce cleaner water and air and improve habitat for wildlife. Budget constraints mean, however, that these and other programs authorized under the massive five-year bill face significant cuts as the process moves forward.
The bill reported by the Senate Agriculture Committee today cuts overall farm bill spending by $23 billion, with $6 billion of the cuts coming from conservation programs. "Although any cuts will be painful given the increasing demands on natural resources, members on both sides of the aisle worked to minimize the impact of the cuts by also including policy improvements designed to increase the effectiveness of conservation programs," said Hopper.
The Senate bill consolidates conservation programs and creates a robust new partnership program designed to leverage the resources of state agencies, local governments, and farm and conservation organizations in cooperative efforts to engage agricultural producers in improving water quality and achieving other conservation goals at the state and local levels.
In her testimony before the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy and Forestry, Hopper warned against deeper cuts to conservation programs. "The case for conservation in the farm bill is as valid as ever," said Hopper. "Soil erosion and degradation of other important natural resources threatens not only environmental quality but also farm profitability and productivity over the long term. We need to maintain and strengthen our commitment to conservation in this farm bill, even if funding is reduced."
Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. For more information, visit: http://www.edf.org/.