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Conservation Cuts in Spending Bills Grab Attention of Environmental Groups

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hoosier Ag Today, Gary Truitt

Published September 12, 2008

Environmental groups are not happy to see the Senate is already trying to cut spending levels for some of the conservation programs included in the 2008 Farm Bill. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program - or EQIP - would reportedly get just over one-billion dollars in 2009 under a Senate appropriations measure. While that’s more funding than the program received last year - the Environmental Working Group says it represents a 285-million dollar cut from the level set by the farm bill. Another 46-million would be shaved from four smaller programs.

According to a report issued by the EWG this week - Democrats are following a “bait-and-switch routine” that “mirrors a longstanding Republican tradition of broken promises” on farm conservation spending. Several groups have written the Appropriations Committees in both chambers of Congress to address concerns about the reductions.

Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition says the size of the reductions isn’t the problem - but rather the precedent they would set. Senate Ag Chairman Tom Harkin has also expressed concern about the conservation cuts. But a spokesman for Senate Ag Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Herb Kohl says the conservation money is needed to cover the rising cost of nutrition and food safety programs.

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