Article Posted: 04/12/2007 7:59:58 AM
Johanns Highlights USDA's 2007 Farm Bill Proposals Related to Conservation
WASHINGTON, – Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today highlighted the Administration's farm bill proposals related to conservation. Johanns pointed out that a key theme throughout the conservation title is simplification and streamlining of programs, while increasing funding for conservation by $7.8 billion over ten years.
"In the area of conservation, we heard during our Farm Bill Forums broad acknowledgement of our successes, but also suggestions to make the programs more user-friendly," said Johanns. "We are proposing to do just that and to bolster our commitment to conservation through the largest increase in funding for any title within our farm bill proposals."
Under current law, there are six cost-share programs, all of which have separate eligibility requirements, sign-up periods, regulations and applications. They include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, the Ground and Surface Water Conservation Program, the Agricultural Management Assistance Program, Forest Land Enhancement Program, and the Klamath Basin Program. The Administration proposes consolidating all six into one program, under the EQIP umbrella, which can address multiple resource issues. This would include a new Regional Water Enhancement Program. Funding for this newly structured program would be increased by 30 percent or an additional $4.25 billion over ten years.
The Regional Water Enhancement Program would allow producers to use a broad range of conservation tools to address water quantity and/or quality issues on a regional scale. Mandatory funding of $175 million annually would be available to coordinate conservation solutions for working agricultural landscapes, including crop, pasture, grazing and orchard lands.
The Administration proposal supports reauthorizing the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) at its current acreage level. CRP would continue to focus on retiring lands that provide the most significant environmental benefits. However, priority would be given to the enrollment of whole fields that qualify to produce perennial biomass crops for cellulosic energy production. Continuous CRP enrollment and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program would also continue.