Conservation Programs Take a Hit in Trump Budget

May 24, 2017
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WASHINGTON, DC – President Trump’s $4.1 trillion budget has received a rough reception from the agriculture community since it appears to gut programs important to his core ag-based constituency and leans disproportionately heavily on agriculture to find “savings.”  As the onion is further peeled, more draconian cuts to conservation programs are coming to light.

For Fiscal Year 2018, the budget proposes $766 million for Conservation Operations, the account that funds conservation planning and technical assistance.  That is nearly $100 million less than FY17 and significantly below historic norms for the program.

In addition, the budget proposes cuts to FY18 mandatory farm bill conservation programs which include an authorized level of $1.4 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – a $350 million cut from what was authorized in the Farm Bill.

The budget proposal also has legislative proposals that would cut more than $5 billion over ten years in a “conservation streamlining initiative.”  The budget certainly picks winner and losers with EQIP receiving a $250 million bump and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) getting a $450 million annual increase.  The losers are the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – no new sign ups; the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) – eliminated; and a few cuts to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  In addition, there is a new Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for conservation programs of $500,000 down from the current $900,000.

“While the proposed increase in funding for EQIP is warranted, the proposal appears to pay for the increase by scaling CSP down and eliminating RCPP, both of which are important programs for rice production and the habitat rice farms provide for migrating waterfowl,” said Louisiana rice farmer Jeff Durand, who also co-chairs the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership.

“The Administration says they are attempting to better target conservation funding, but what they’re really doing is arbitrarily gutting programs that work - for both the environment - specifically for wildlife habitat and water quality - and for growers who are facing staggeringly tough times and use these programs to pursue sustainability goals,” said ​USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.