Tamara Hinton, 202.225.0184
I'd like to thank Chairman Thompson for holding today's hearing to examine conservation programs.
During the past two farm bills I served as the chairman and ranking member, respectively, for the subcommittee of jurisdiction for the conservation title. Both the 2008 and 2002 Farm Bills saw exponential growth in conservation programs.
In 2002, we increased conservation spending in the 2002 Farm Bill by $17 billion over ten years—an 80 percent expansion that created the greenest farm bill in history. This legislation increased our commitment to important programs like CRP and EQIP and helped multiply participation in conservation practices.
In the 2008 Farm Bill, we built upon the historic conservation title by $4 billion over 10 years. That conservation title included new regional and cooperative partnership programs as well as the reauthorization and increased funding of existing programs.
These programs have created new ways for producers and conservation organizations to achieve shared goals. Farmers and ranchers, with the assistance of these programs, have voluntarily worked to help reduce soil erosion, increase wetlands, improve water quality, and preserve farmland and wildlife habitat.
However, as we work towards the next bill, this Committee will be faced with a very different budget situation. Not only will the Agriculture Committee have to do our part within the overall deficit situation, but as all of us know, we literally have dozens of programs with no baselines, many under the umbrella of conservation.
Conservation is an important element of farm policy. Farmers and ranchers make their living off the land, and they are committed to preserving and protecting it for future generations.
As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to ensure that conservation policy is effective without being duplicative or too costly. That is especially important in the current fiscal environment.
Today's audit will help us evaluate our current policy so that we can determine what is working, what needs to be adjusted, and what can be eliminated.
This is a critical step in the process of developing the next Farm Bill, and I thank you all for being here today to participate in that process.