After a showdown on Capitol Hill last week, Congress averted a government shutdown and agreed to a budget deal for the remaining 6 months of fiscal year (FY) 2011. The final budget slashed programs that protect the environment, increase economic opportunity, serve beginning farmers, and ensure proper nutrition for low-income woman and children.
Due to the efforts of advocates such as you, several critical sustainable agriculture programs were saved. However the stakes are much higher as Congress now turns to the FY 2012 budget– as any cuts made to conservation programs in the FY 2012 budget will slash baseline funding levels for the 2012 Farm Bill and conservation spending for the next decade.
Wrap Up on 2011 Bill:
The good news is that the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program was not cut. While the $19 million appropriation is less than one third of the program’s $60 million authorization, securing level funding is a modest win in this current budget climate. The Value-Added Producer Grants Program (VAPG) program suffered only a modest cut and will also have $19 million available for this year’s grants. The Organic Transitions Integrated Research Program (ORG), slated for complete elimination, also suffered only a modest cut.
NSAC will continue to push for a FY 2012 appropriation of $30 million for both SARE and VAPG and to restore ORG to the full $5 million.
The bad news is that conservation programs that restore wetlands, protect water quality, and create wildlife habitat took a massive cut of more than $500 million. The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) was cut by $39 million and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was cut by $350 million. The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) was cut by $119 million for this year, though it could be restored next year barring another cut in the 2012 bill.
We will be vigorously defending against any further cuts to conservation programs in 2012.
The modest $2.8 million in funding for the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, also known as ATTRA, was eliminated. NSAC strongly objects to terminating this exemplary program that for over 20 years has provided important research-based information to farmers nationwide, many of whom have no other reliable source of information.
We will work to restore its funding in the 2012 bill.
The FY 2011 bill makes several deep cuts to Farm Services Agency farm credit programs, including the elimination of direct and guaranteed conservation loans. Direct farm ownership loans were also cut by $175 million and direct farm operating loans by $50 million. The lion’s share of these loans are reserved for beginning farmers and minority farmers and provide a crucial source of capital for farmers not served by commercial credit. The proposed cuts would make it all the more difficult to support stewardship and foster the next generation of farmers.
NSAC will be working to restore adequate funding to farm credit programs in 2012.