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“The EQIP program is very popular and we’ve also added some special offerings like programs to protect the sage grouse in the West, address air quality in the Central Valley and conserve water in Kansas and Nebraska,” says Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief Dave White.


Will Conservation Once Again Be On The Cutting Board? Concerns About The Federal Deficit Drive Renewed Interest In Spending Cuts


W


SARA WYANT WASHINGTON, D.C.


ith a federal budget deficit that the Obama Adminis- tration now estimates at a


whopping $1.47 trillion for 2010, it’s highly likely that, after the mid- term elections this fall, budget


cutters will be looking to trim in every nook and cranny. Little surprise, then, that a wide variety


of agricultural groups are making a pre-emptive strike to showcase their importance of their pro- grams and hopefully, avoid the budget knife. Federal farm price support programs used to be


the biggest targets when it came to focusing on places to cut. But with the growth in spending on crop insurance and conservation in recent years (see pie chart), these program areas have become the newest targets. And conservation programs could be at the top of the list. Why? Lawmakers have been gradually increas-


ing funding for conservation, while making plans to cut crop insurance. In fact, crop insurance spending already took a hit last month when the Obama Administration announced plans to cut $6 billion out of that program, with $4 billion going to reduce the federal deficit. Now lawmakers are looking at whether or not


there is any “fat” in conservation spending or other areas that can be trimmed. The National Association of Conservation Dis-


tricts (NACD) says raiding conservation programs to fund other programs doesn’t make any sense – especially when you consider the strong demand for conservation out in the countryside. Demand outstrips supply Case in point: The Environmental Quality Incen-


tives Program (EQIP) provided over $731 million in “financial assistance” (FA) funds for producer contracts in fiscal 2009. But applications worth an estimated $1.36 billion were unfunded.


In California alone, almost 7,000 applications totaling over $126 million were still waiting for funds at the end of the fiscal year, according to Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) data (See table). The unmet needs continued with unfunded applications in Oklahoma (over 6,300), Mississippi (4,670), Missouri (4,519), Arkansas (2120) and South Dakota (1,584). These application numbers do not include Technical Assistance (TA) funds used for salary and other costs associated with program management.


For most farmers, EQIP provides payments up to


75 percent of the incurred costs and income fore- gone of certain conservation practices and activi- ties. Underserved producers (Limited resource farmers/ranchers, beginning farmers/ranchers, socially disadvantaged producers) may be eligible for payments up to 90 percent.


State


Alabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado


Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho


Illinois Indiana Iowa


Kansas


Kentucky Louisiana Maine


Maryland


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The 2008 Farm Bill authorized gradually increasing amounts for EQIP funding, starting at $1.2 billion in 2008 and reaching $1.75 billion in 2012. But appropriators have not been fully funding the program, resulting in “unused” authorized funds that are often being “chimped” and allocated elsewhere. (The official term for this official method of taking funds away from mandatory programs is Change In Mandatory Programs or CHIMP. Capitol Hill insiders refer to these raids on mandatory funding as “chimping” or being “chimped.”)


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Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Blanche Lincoln has considered using EQIP to pay for increased funding for the child nutrition bill, drawing howls from members of the conservation and environmental community. However, as her staff members point out, the proposed cuts of $2.8 billion over 10 years are from an authorized level, not actually from dollars that were going to producers.


Vermont Virginia


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TENNESSEE


NACD President Steve Robinson, a corn, soybean and wheat producer farming 900 acres in Marysville, OH. Says that NACD would like the 2012 Farm Bill to do what the 2008 Farm Bill did – increase conservation funding. His group was encouraged by the administration's budget proposal to increase USDA's NRCS Conservation Operations Account from FY 2010's $887.6 million to $923.7 million for FY 2011. The $923.7 compares with a Senate Appropriations


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Washington West Virginia Wisconsin Wyoming TOTAL


$74,665,929 $2,392,325 $5,170,097 $23,024,194 $16,086,402 $10,919,423 $82,384,306 $46,407,472 $8,994,671 $15,303,824 $37,661,017 $26,374,691 $13,494,215 $12,845,294


$1,361,337,261


1,048 1,682 1,405 2,372 1,094


110,077 “The EQIP program is very popular and we’ve


also added some special offerings like programs to protect the sage grouse in the West, address air quality in the Central Valley and conserve water in Kansas and Nebraska,” says Natural


CONTINUED ON PAGE 10 August 6, 2010 / MidAmerica Farmer Grower • 3


Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada


New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York


North Carolina North Dakota Ohio


Oklahoma Oregon


Pacific Basin Pennsylvania Puerto Rico Rhode Island South Carolina South Dakota Tennessee Texas Utah


Estimated Unfunded Application Dollars 2009


$17,317,725 $1,517,662 $31,693,417 $12,246,628 $126,184,541 $24,885,704 $2,698,692 $10,883,347 $44,294,339 $32,853,691 $3,432,121 $31,625,551 $6,211,243 $7,897,565 $34,490,478 $30,523,662 $29,085,396 $26,211,226 $14,092,023 $3,995,410 $11,560,866 $27,788,265 $11,096,310 $9,312,299 $43,047,610 $40,376,782 $63,009,430 $8,189,015 $2,207,065 $9,826,560 $37,295,705 $39,158,038 $32,099,187 $38,441,004 $22,885,744


$77,205,284 $19,890,647 $83,168


Number of Unfunded Applications 3,673


68 606


2,120 6,832 2,013 150 706


1,901 4,306 255


1,383 1,767 1,405 4,163 3,002 3,403 2,667 813 663 540 938


1,873 4,670 4,519 2,645 5,107 292 430 433


1,760 1,653 1,863 2,706 2,764 6,359 1,302 87


3,059 576 198


1,488 1,584 2,721 8,695 1,724 594


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