Senate Abandons Family Farms and Conservation

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(08/03/2001) - WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today yielded to pressure from the White House and Senate Republican leadership to strip vital conservation programs from a major agriculture supplemental spending bill, which "gives the bum’s rush to stewardship-minded farmers across the country," according to Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen. After losing a vote to stop senators from filibustering the funds for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Farmland Protection Program (FPP) in the supplemental, Senate leaders accepted the House version of the bill without the conservation money.

"Stiffing farmers who want to do the right thing on their own land is incredibly shortsighted, and we’re deeply disappointed that the intransigence of the president and the House of Representatives has led us to this sad juncture," said Schlickeisen. "We want to commend Senator Harkin for fighting for these important conservation programs, and hope along with family farmers across the country that he prevails later this year."

Senate action stalled when Republican senators mounted a filibuster against the $7.4 billion agriculture supplemental spending bill for FY 2001, over objections to the conservation and other spending in the legislation. Senate Republicans and the White House supported a smaller, $5.5 billion bill as passed by the House of Representatives, which includes economic aid to farmers but deleted funding for WHIP, WRP, and FPP. The $1.9 billion deleted from the bill is specifically allowed for in the FY2002 budget resolution that Congress itself adopted. Following the failure this morning of a cloture vote to end the filibuster, senators agreed to the House version of the bill.

"One day after inducing the House to pass an energy bill that included $37.5 billion in giveaways to Big Oil and King Coal so they can further despoil the environment, the White House has strong armed the Senate into axing voluntary farm conservation programs. It symbolizes the president’s environmental philosophy in a nutshell," said Schlickeisen.

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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.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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