Environmental Groups Seek Increase in USDA Funding
Washington, DC- Twelve national environmental groups urged Congress to increase funding for voluntary USDA conservation programs when legislators renew the Farm Bill.
American Bird Conservancy, American Rivers, Environmental Defense, Environmental Working Group, Land Trust Alliance, National Audubon Society Natural Resources Defense Council, Republicans for Environmental Protection, Soil and Water Conservation Society, Trust for Public Land, Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund urged House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson and Rankin Member Bob Goodlatte to "dramatically expand incentives for farm, ranch and forest land management practices that benefit the environment."
The 2002 Farm Bill expires in September.
In particular, the groups urged Reps. Peterson and Goodlatte to:
--Increase cost-sharing assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program to $2 billion annually;
--Expand the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program to $300 million annually;
--Reserve 20 percent of working lands conservation funds to promote cooperative conservation agreements that link together groups of farmers to meet regional environmental challenges.
--Protect at least 5 million acres of farm and pasture land from development through the Farm and Ranchland Protection Program and the Grassland Reserve Program and create a new a program to help local governments and land trusts acquire community forests and other open spaces.
--Reform the Conservation Reserve Program by enrolling more streamside buffers and other marginal, environmentally-sensitive lands that can filter runoff and provide habitat for wildlife.
--Expand the Wetlands Reserve Program to 5 million acres;
Make the Conservation Security Program available to more producers who meet high levels of environmental performance;
--Expand forestry incentive programs to $250 million annually.
--Expand energy title programs to provide grants, loans and loan guarantees to farmers and farmer-owned businesses to develop energy on farms in ways that also meet our environmental challenges.
--Expand efforts to help farmers make the transition to organic production systems.