Funding Panel Shortchanges Agriculture Conservation

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(06/13/2001) - WASHINGTON – Thirty-eight conservation and sustainable agriculture organizations are asking the House Appropriations Committee to provide funding for three key agricultural conservation programs that were zero-funded last Wednesday by the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. The subcommittee bill zeroed budgets for three popular conservation incentive programs – the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Farmland Protection Program (FPP), and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP).

"If these programs are eliminated, it will be a crippling blow for real, farmer-driven conservation work on farms across America," said Mark Shaffer, senior vice president for programs at Defenders of Wildlife. "These incentive-based, private-landowner conservation programs are needed to protect wildlife, water quality, and open space."

The 38 groups sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young and Ranking Member David Obey, noting the tremendous farmer interest in these programs, which have generally attracted considerably more high-quality applications than the budgets allowed them to fund. Eliminating these programs would leave existing demand for the WRP at more than $300 million, $200 million for the FPP, and over $150 million in unfunded proposals for the WHIP.

According to the letter, "With farming and ranching occupying more than 50 percent of the land in the contiguous United States, resource conservation on private agricultural land is essential to keeping our water clean, preserving our open spaces, and protecting vital wildlife habitat. At the same time, farmers face strong financial pressures to till sensitive and marginal lands."

Organizations signing the letter include American Farmland Trust, American Rivers, American Water Works Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Defense, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Farmers Union, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, Trust for Public Land, and United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.

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Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 430,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on environmental issues.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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