130 organizations deliver letter opposing cuts to conservation

From National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

On Tuesday, May 5, more than 130 organizations from around the country urged the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees to oppose cuts to farm bill conservation funding in fiscal year (FY) 2016 appropriations legislation. The letter was sent by a broad range of groups, including the American Seed Trade Association, National Farmers Union, American Society of Agronomy, Alabama Association of Conservation Districts, National Wildlife Federation, Kansas Rural Center, Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many others in addition to NSAC.

Congressional appropriators are currently drafting their FY 2016 agriculture appropriations bills, which we expect to see sometime in late May or early June. In previous years, appropriators have used a back-door budget gimmick called “Changes in Mandatory Program Spending (CHIMPS)” to cut farm bill direct spending, which is under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture Committees, not the Appropriations Committees. The FY 2015 Appropriations Act, for instance, cut the 2014 Farm Bill’s funding for conservation by nearly $600 million; and the FY 2016 proposal from President Obama would use CHIMPS to cut it even further, by $860 million. These cuts have direct impacts on farmers, ranchers, and foresters across the country. They mean more water pollution, less wildlife habitat, and more expensive environmental mitigation in the future.

“The undersigned organizations oppose re-opening the farm bill and thus urge you to protect farm bill conservation program mandatory funding as you consider agriculture appropriations legislation for fiscal year 2016,” the letter states. “The President’s proposal is shortsighted and would severely limit the capacity of farmers, ranchers, and foresters to conserve water, maintain their soil, and produce abundant food and fiber.”

Even without any additional CHIMPS, mandatory spending for farm bill conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Stewardship Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program will be automatically cut by upwards of $250 million through sequestration.

As the Subcommittees develop FY 2016 appropriations bills, NSAC and partners will continue to fight against conservation CHIMPS.