A total of 76 farm, conservation and wildlife groups delivered a letter to Congress requesting full funding for conservation programs and technical assistance in fiscal year 2021 appropriations.
In the letter, the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD), National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), National Farmers Union (NFU), National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and other signatories called upon House and Senate appropriators to maintain discretionary U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation funding and reject any cuts to farm bill conservation programs through the fiscal 2021 appropriations process.
Farm bill conservation programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, play a vital role in helping farmers, ranchers and landowners keep their lands sustainable and profitable for generations to come, the groups said. The letter asks lawmakers to maintain the funding for these programs mandated by the 2018 farm bill and urges appropriators to fund the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Conservation Operations account at $840 million, a $10 million increase from fiscal 2020. This money facilitates the agency's operations outside the mandatory farm bill programs.
“Voluntary, incentive-based, locally led conservation delivery is crucial to responsible management and conservation of the nation’s natural resources,” NACD president Tim Palmer said. “These conservation programs help put more boots on the ground in local communities, where they’re best equipped to make knowledgeable decisions in cooperation with landowners for their individual landscapes.”
"Farmers and ranchers work hard every day to conserve their land," NSAC policy director Eric Deeble said. "Ensuring that they have the resources and support they need to keep their soil healthy, along with their livelihoods, should always be a priority for Congress."
NFU president Rob Larew said, "As climate change presents significant financial and environmental challenges for family farmers and ranchers, farm bill conservation programs provide ever-critical support for on-farm mitigation and adaption efforts. For these essential programs to operate at full capacity, they must have adequate resources and staff behind them. We urge appropriators to ensure farmers have access to services and assistance they need by providing ample funding for the coming fiscal year."
“America’s farmers and agricultural producers have a leading role to play in restoring habitat and strengthening conservation outcomes,” NWF director of agriculture policy Aviva Glaser said. “Now is the time for policy-makers to redouble our commitments to agricultural conservation programs to help farmers reeling from the recent trade war and the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.”