Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a public hearing to examine the benefits of promoting soil health in agriculture and rural America.
House Realigns Conservation Programs; Funds to support technical assistance for conservation programs
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the House passed S. 2856 sponsored by Senator Cochran and the Agriculture Committee, to limit the transfer of certain Commodity Credit Corporation funds between conservation programs for technical assistance. The bill garnered bipartisan support and was passed by voice vote.
Conservation programs were a significant part of the 2002 Farm Bill. Congress increased the budget for conservation programs by nearly $2 billion per year, a 75 percent increase; however, there is a current shortfall in the conservation technical assistance budget at the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This shortfall represents the costs necessary to administer the Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve programs. Currently, funding for technical assistance is pulled from other programs to balance the costs.
"S. 2856 will help alleviate some of the implementation problems that have occurred during the last two years when approximately $100 million per year was being taken from the four donor programs. When the Farm Bill was written, it was Congress’s intent that each conservation program would pay for its own technical assistance,” said Chairman Goodlatte.
The Chairman thanked Subcommittee Chairman Frank Lucas for his tireless work on the legislation as well as the bipartisan support led by Ranking Minority member Charlie Stenholm.
"The funding we worked so hard to include in the farm bill for conservation practices was being redirected to other conservation programs by USDA officials in Washington. They were robbing Peter to pay Paul, and the landowners who use these cost-share programs were losing out as a result,” Representative Lucas said.
The Chairman worked with the Budget and Appropriations Committees to ensure S. 2856’s passage would prevent funds from being diverted from programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), the Farmland Protection Program (FPP) and the Grasslands Reserve Program (GRP).
"I can’t stress enough how important these programs are or how important it is that producers have access to programs to keep the soil and air clean and to improve or restore wildlife habitat,” the Chairman said.