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Senate Cuts Would Shave $5 Million From S.D. EQIP Funds, Group Says

Friday, September 18, 2009

Daily Republic, Seth Tupper

Published September 24, 2008

South Dakota stands to lose $5.268 million of federal funding that was pledged by the farm bill toward a popular conservation program, according to new estimates from an environmental watchdog group.

The Washington-based Environmental Working Group issued a report this week detailing the amounts that each state stands to lose because of proposed Senate Appropriations Committee cuts to 2009 conservation funding that was pledged in the 2008 farm bill.

The bulk of the proposed cuts would affect the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which in South Dakota pays cost-share for farmers and ranchers to install environmentally friendly practices such as feedlot waste-management systems and cropland terracing.

It was previously announced that Senate appropriators have proposed cutting the EQIP funding in the farm bill by $285 million overall. The Environmental Working Group’s new state-level estimates say the difference between the EQIP funding pledged to South Dakota in the farm bill and the amount the state would actually receive if the cuts are approved is $5.268 million.

Fourteen states stand to lose more than $6 million. The five states that stand to lose the most EQIP funding are Texas, which would lose $22.5 million; California, which would lose $15.5 million; Colorado, which would lose $10 million; Minnesota, which would lose $8.1 million; and Nebraska, which would lose $8 million.

“Every state faces pressing natural resource and environmental problems associated with agriculture and each of those states is in danger of losing millions of dollars of EQIP funds,” reads the report. “If the cuts to EQIP proposed by Congress stand, tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers who are volunteering to make things better, and share the cost of doing so with the government, will be turned away and taxpayers will face more delays in getting the improvements to air, water, soil, and wildlife habitat they are willing to pay for.”

To estimate the funding cuts in each state, the Environmental Working Group calculated the average percentage share of total EQIP funds each state received between 2005 and 2007. That percentage share for each state was then used to determine how much money states would receive if the 2008 farm bill funding is upheld, and how much states would receive if the funding is scaled back to the levels proposed by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

In South Dakota last year, 369 applicants received $16.997 million in EQIP funding. Another 360 applicants were rejected, mostly because of the lack of additional funding, according to a state resource conservationist.

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