When thinking about the $1.1 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last month, one might ask, “What does Congress have against conservation?”
They made huge cuts to conservation programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that supports conservation practices on cropland, pastureland and rangeland, totaling $402 million over 10 years. This cut means 2.3 million fewer acres enrolled in the program.
This anti-conservation spending bill also cut the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $136 million for this fiscal year.
While the CSP is designed to reward farmers and ranchers who have a history of integrating conservation, EQIP will help them develop a conservation practice for the first time. Both programs support practices such as cover crops, diverse cropping systems, as well as rotational grazing practices on pasture, rangeland, and cropland restored to a grass-based system.
These are the conservation-based farming practices we need more support for, not less. This especially is true in the face of climate-change impacts on agriculture, and the increased need to protect and restore water quality.
So while they cut the conservation programs that help farmers and ranchers integrate risk management through conservation-based farming practices, they left intact the unlimited federal crop insurance-premium subsidies and farm-program payments that encourage risk-taking and agriculture consolidation by the nation’s largest and wealthiest farms.
This is an anti-farmer, anti-conservation bill that is representative of crisis-driven legislation stemming from a dysfunctional Congress. Join the Center for Rural Affairs and fight for annual spending bills that are forward-looking and create opportunity.