The President’s Fiscal Year 2010 agriculture budget contains some disappointing proposals, says John Scholl, President of American Farmland Trust (AFT). “Despite his desire to support conservation and agriculture, reductions in conservation spending will make it much more difficult for farmers and ranchers to make changes necessary to protect our air, land and water," he says.

“We are well aware of the difficult economy and fiscal situation our nation faces, but we also recognize the improvements agriculture can bring to the serious environmental challenges we face, including climate change, reduced water quality and the loss of farmland,” Scholl adds.

AFT’s Bob Wagner, senior director of Farmland Protection Programs, laments cuts to the Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). “This is one of the most cost-effective conservation programs in the budget. Every $1 the federal government invests in protecting farmland through conservation easements and other tools is matched with $3 by farmers, and local and state programs.”

Wagner notes that the President’s budget would cut $30 million in funding in 2010, and
$175 million over the next three years if extended.

Another critical program is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. The EQIP program would be cut by $250 million in the proposal.

“This is a working lands conservation program,” says Scholl of EQIP. “All of the practices we are encouraging landowners to undertake are the kinds of things we want them to do — to install buffer strips between fields and streams and fence livestock out of waterways, for instance.”

“The one bright spot in the budget is funding for the Conservation Loan Guarantee Program,” says Dennis Nuxoll, AFT Senior Director of Government Relations. “This is a program AFT proposed in the 2008 Farm Bill that would provide a supplemental tool in our nation’s conservation toolbox.”

View the proposed USDA budget.

Source: American Farmland Trust