WEF, Other Organizations Pen Letter Opposing the Reopening of Farm Bill

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) and more than 100 other organizations wrote a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representative subcommittees on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration in opposition to reopening debate on the 2014 farm bill. The letter was written to protect the bill’s conservation program funding.

Last year, the Agricultural Act of 2014 consolidated or eliminated nearly a dozen conservation programs and reduced mandatory funding by $4 billion, with sequestration scheduled to cut an additional $2 billion. Under the law, new enrollments in conservation programs will decline in fiscal year (FY) 2016.

However, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget, President Barack Obama’s FY 2016 budget request proposes hundreds of millions of dollars in additional cuts to the conservation title of the law. The president’s request includes a 1.2 million-ha (3-million-ac) cut to the Conservation Stewardship Program and a 30% reduction below the 4.04 million ha (10 million ac) mandated by the 2014 law. The budget proposes a 23% cut in funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

The letter strongly opposes the proposed cuts and urges the chairs and ranking members to reject them or any other cuts to conservation program funding. The president’s proposal would limit the capacity of farmers, ranchers, and foresters to conserve water, maintain their soil, and produce abundant food and fiber, the letter states. According to the letter, agricultural conservation programs are the first line of defense in preparing for extreme weather events and avoiding the need for environmental regulations.

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