Today (April 19) the House Appropriations Committee will mark up the $21 billion agriculture spending bill for fiscal year 2017, which proposes to slash a number of vital conservation programs. To understand what’s at stake in the bill, keep in mind a couple of key points:
- Farm pollution is making people sick and is bad for the environment. Many farmers are doing their part, but most are not.
- Why? The incentives are all backwards – federal farm policies encourage bad practices and do too little to reward good stewardship
The proposed spending bill would only set us further back. It would cut the Environmental Quality Incentives Program – financial and technical assistance to farmers for conservation practices– by more than $300 million, based on the most recent farm program baselines.
It would also cut by one-fifth the acreage that can be enrolled in the Conservation Stewardship Program. The program helps producers adopt and maintain conservation practices to improve water and air quality, reduce polluted runoff, increase biodiversity and improve soil health.
The bill comes out of a subcommittee chaired by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.). With farm pollution continuing to pollute the nation’s rivers, lakes and drinking water, it is disappointing that Aderholt would propose deep cuts to the very conservation programs created by Congress to reduce agriculture’s impact on the environment.
The proliferation of toxic algae blooms and rising cost of filtering nitrates from municipal drinking water should serve as a daily reminder that Congress must address the problem of farm pollution head-on – not continue to encourage it.