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Proposed Budget Could Mean Loss in EQIP Money

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mitchell Daily Republic, Seth Tupper

An environmental group said Wednesday that the Obama administration's proposed 2010 fiscal-year budget would cause South Dakota to "lose" about $5.3 million in funding for a popular conservation program.

Whether the money would actually be "lost" is open to interpretation, because the money was merely authorized - or "mandated," depending on one's perspective - by the 2008 farm bill. Congress still must appropriate the funds.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, said Wednesday that nationwide funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in the proposed Obama budget falls $250 million short of what was authorized by the farm bill.

"President Obama's proposed 2010 fiscal year budget continues the longstring of broken promises that have left conservation programs billions short over the past two farm bills," said the Environmental Working Group news release.

The release included a state-by-state listing that compares the Obama administration's proposed EQIP funding to the amount authorized by the farm bill. South Dakota's proposed funding is about $5.3 million short of what was authorized, the release said. The farm-bill authorization for South Dakota was $30.555 million, but the proposed budget appropriation is $25.287 million.

In South Dakota, EQIP provides cost-sharing to help farmers and ranchers install environmentally friendly practices such as feedlot waste-management systems and cropland terracing. Demand for the program has exceeded funding in recent years.

Craig Cox, an Environmental Working Group vice president, chastised the Obama administration for shorting conservation programs in the proposed budget.

"We still have a long way to go to reduce soil erosion, water pollution and declining wildlife habitat on agricultural land, and global warming will make these long-standing problems much harder to solve," Cox said in the news release. "Meanwhile, as conservation programs are chronically under-funded, commodity programs and biofuels still receive billions in federal assistance."


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