Prepared by Aviva Glaser, National Wildlife Federation

As we know, the President’s budget is dead on arrival at Capitol Hill. However, it gives us some good opportunity for messaging around the importance of various programs as well as insight into the Farm Bill proposals that the administration supports. As groups who care about water quality and Farm Bill conservation programs, it is especially critical to talk about the importance of the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, both of which the President’s budget proposes to eliminate entirely. The budget also eliminates funding entirely for numerous rural water and watershed programs.

Conservation Operations and Technical Assistance:

The budget proposes $669 million for Conservation Operations, the account that funds conservation planning and technical assistance. That is almost $200 million less than current spending levels – a cut of over 20%.  Conservation Operations includes the funding for Conservation Technical Assistance, which is critical for on the ground conservation program implementation. The budget proposes $576 million for technical assistance, which is a $203 million decrease from current spending levels, or a 25% cut.

Conservation Programs:

  • The budget includes legislative proposals for Farm Bill changes in addition to budgetary numbers. The proposed legislative changes would cut more than $14 billion from conservation over 10 years
  • The budget includes a legislative proposal to eliminate funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program in favor of “legislative flexibility to achieve program goals.” These proposals are aimed at the 2018 farm bill and recommended to the Ag Committees that they eliminate these two critical programs.
  • On top of the legislative proposals, the budget also includes a proposed appropriations change to eliminate funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program in FY19 (through Changes in Mandatory Funding Spending – CHIMPS). CSP is the largest conservation program, with more than 72 million acres of working lands enrolled.
  • There are conflicting numbers for Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which would be increased to either $1.502 billion or $1.766 billion for FY19
  • A number of legislative changes are proposed for the Conservation Reserve Program, including: targeting enrollment to environmentally sensitive areas, limiting enrollment of whole farm fields, and eliminating signing and practice incentive payments, and limiting CRP rental rate payments to 80% of the average county rental rates.  The latter two changes would likely make it much more difficult to enroll high quality continuous practices that are critical for water quality, pollinators, and wildlife.

Other Relevant USDA programs:

  • No funding is requested for USDA’s Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program
  • No funding is requested for the Grassroots Source Water Protection Program
  • No funding is requested for Watershed Operations
  • No funding is requested for Small Watershed Operations
  • No funding is requested for Section 2501 Outreach for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers
  • Mandatory funds available for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program would be permanently cancelled
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