Land Conservation Versus New Farmers: The Fight for Farm Bill Funding

| 11/5/2010 9:33:16 AM

Which is more important? Preserving and restoring wetlands, or encouraging new farmers and ranchers?  Policymakers drafting the 2012 Farm Bill may face this challenging decision. A recent Congressional Research Service report identified 37 programs that are underfunded or set to expire early in the farm bill’s next passage.

Several of the unfunded programs focus on land conservation and organic agriculture, including the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Grassland Reservewetlands conservations Program, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, National Organic Certification Cost Share and more.

These programs, which account for $9 to $10 billion of the bill’s total budget, do not have mandatory baseline funding that extends beyond 2012. To fund these endangered programs, the money will have to come from other areas of the bill, potentially setting the stage for battles between small-scale organic farmers and advocates of wetlands conservation.

While these programs account for a mere 4 percent of the $238 billion total five-year cost of the farm bill, they are vitally important for the development of sustainable agriculture and protection of habitat. As pointed out by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, “The $9-10 billion represents nearly a third of the cost of the 2008 Farm Bill that was not commodity programs, crop insurance or food stamps.” 

To learn more about the threat to these programs and the 2012 Farm Bill, check out “Previewing the Next Farm Bill: Unfunded and Early-Expiring Provisions” published by the Congressional Research Service.

Tell us your ideas: How can Congress construct a Farm Bill that doesn’t leave these important programs high and dry?

Kamia at Heart's Haven
11/12/2010 7:20:24 PM

Actually I live on a small organic farm, and where we have turned down funding of the wetlands and stream beds that are being restored little by little, as well as any other type of "government" help. There was an old saying that "nothing comes free but wrong advice and poor directions" and who needs either of those? Everything else costs in some way. Nor is it good to have the government thinking they should be able to stick their nose in every aspect of a property because they "funded" something in the past. We need to quit subsidizing farming, which only produces the equivalent of subsidy junkies. If we just stopped, most of the $238 BILLION (can you even wrap your brain around that figure?) would quit going to megacorporate farms that shouldn't be funded for higher profits anyway. Then we could then make independent (and much less expensive) decisions at the state, or even local, level on what needed to be supported. Just think - even California wouldn't be going broke if we distributed those funds equitably LOL

Abbey Bend
11/10/2010 2:39:03 PM

Here is an interesting quandary, which contribute more to green house gasses; wetlands or cattle production? Times up, it is about the same but wetlands edge out cattle production! Now we have the quandary answered, get the government out of subsidizing things! It has not been effective so far, except to spend more money than the nation has. The Nanny state so many people seem to want, but more are voting against, is not working. Let Farmers fend for themselves, when I was young we did not have anyone giving us money to farm and we succeeded. Subsidizing Farmer’s Markets, are you kidding me!! They do well were people want them and fail where people do not, we do not need to be having the government tell us which businesses to help succeed and which to let fail. Cuba has done that, and it is not going so well. We need to get government spending under control; we already have the government taking enough of people’s money, cut back, and spend less. All of the worthwhile programs will still find money from private funding and there will be more of it if the government gets a smaller piece of people’s money to spend on their pet projects. All of these ideas, programs are important, but none of them belong in the government’s pocket! Time to let them run free and live or die on their own merits.

11/10/2010 1:33:42 PM

Can't we conserve wetlands and encourage beginning farmers, farmer's markets, and National Organic Certification? These things seems to be not at odds with each other, but different sides of the same coin. Surely organic farming helps to protect wetlands? I will be writing to my congressional representatives about this. Remember that a written letter, on paper, makes much more impact than an email. The Farm Bill should not subsidize factory farms and CAFOs at the cost of small farms and wetlands. Amy Titus

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