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AgMag BLOG

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Many Farmers Seeking Conservation Help Get Turned Away

Monday, May 13, 2013

Two out of every five farmers who seek assistance in reducing water pollution from their fields or the amount of pesticides and antibiotics they use are being turned away because USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service lacks sufficient funding.

That’s according to new EWG analysis of applications for federal programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides incentives to help farmers and ranchers meet public health and environmental challenges.

And now the House and Senate Agriculture Committees are poised to make things worse. In their competing versions of the 2013 farm bill, both would make cuts that would lengthen the long lines facing farmers who seek assistance and compound the damage done by previous cuts imposed by Congressional spending committees. Funding for agricultural conservation programs has been slashed every year since 2002.

According to EWG’s analysis of NRCS data, 40 percent of farmers who want to enroll in voluntary conservation programs have been denied federal assistance over the last seven years. Agriculture is the leading source of water pollution nationwide, so cuts to voluntary conservation programs contribute to higher water treatment costs for water utilities and consumers. On top of that, agriculture is the largest user of freshwater and antibiotics.

Last year, nearly half of the applications submitted for EQIP funding were rejected. Similarly, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which protects millions of acres of topsoil from erosion, rejected more than 29,000 of the applications it received from 2005 to 2012.

The story is much the same across all of the Agriculture Department’s conservation programs, which were created to relieve the environmental problems linked to farming:

Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA): 2005-2012

  • 7,779 producers applied
  • 3, 539 applications – 45 percent –rejected for lack of funding

Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP): 2009-2012

  • 14,504 producers applied
  • 6,178 applications – 42 percent –rejected for lack of funding

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI): 2009-2012

  • 10,875 producers applied
  • 4,383 – 40 percent –rejected for lack of funding

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP): 2005-2012 (no 2007 data available)

  • 101,133 producers applied
  • 29,142 – 28 percent –rejected for lack of funding

Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): 2005-2012

  • 826,330 producers applied
  • 347,875 – 42 percent –rejected for lack of funding 

Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP): 2005-2012

  • 66,333 producers applied
  • 27,348 – 41 percent –rejected for lack of funding

Here’s the year-by-year breakdown:

The year-by-year breakdown
  FY 2005 FY 2006 FY 2007 FY 2008 FY 2009 FY 2010 FY 2011 FY 2012
Agricultural Management Assistance (AMA)  
Applications Rejected 775 191 0 169 210 886 766 542
Percent Rejected 36 24 0 33 33 56 60 60
Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP)  
Applications Rejected N/A N/A N/A N/A 1,290 1,774 1,634 1,480
Percent Rejected N/A N/A N/A N/A 33 44 47 46
Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative (CBWI)  
Applications Rejected N/A N/A N/A N/A 591 1,408 1,371 1,013
Percent Rejected N/A N/A N/A N/A 29 48 39 41
Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)  
Applications Rejected 1,270 423 N/A 268 N/A 14,954 7,863 4,364
Percent Rejected 7 4 N/A 11 N/A 38 41 27
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)  
Applications Rejected 36,098 38,588 36,653 32,333 48.172 42,151 50,162 63,718
Percent Rejected 36 42 35 35 36 42 48 49
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP)  
Applications Rejected 2,489 2,422 3,162 2,233 2,414 4,955 5,076 4,597
Percent Rejected 35 38 44 33 30 43 49 46