NACD Encouraged by Technical Assistance funds
The National Association of Conservation Districts is encouraged that the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Fiscal Year 2018 bill strongly funds technical assistance at the Agriculture Department, but is concerned with continued cuts to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.
The spending legislation includes an allocation of $874 million for the Conservation Operations account – almost $10 million more than Congress passed for FY 2017 and $108 million more than President Donald Trump’s FY 2018 budget request. Out of the Conservation Operations account, which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), $768.8 million is reserved for the Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program.
“The Senate committee’s call for robust CTA funding shows in no uncertain terms its commitment to promoting the wise use of our nation’s natural resources,” NACD President Brent Van Dyke said. “This funding allows NRCS and America’s 3,000 conservation districts to continue providing millions of private landowners with on-the-ground technical conservation assistance and local solutions to protect water quality, build soil health, and enhance wildlife habitat nationwide.”
The Senate committee’s bill also includes language similar to the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act (S. 364), which would provide our nation’s conservationists participating in NRCS programs much needed regulatory relief. Additionally, the bill provides $150 million for Watershed Operations, a vital program to rural communities.
Unfortunately, the Watershed Rehabilitation program was not similarly funded, and in contrast to the House Appropriations Committee’s decision to allocate full funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Senate committee’s bill would reduce EQIP by approximately $300 million dollars in FY 2018.
“EQIP is an exceedingly popular program that has helped hundreds of thousands of landowners take their first steps into farm bill conservation programs. Chipping away at this program won’t save any dollars in the long-term – it will only make protecting and conserving our natural resources more costly in the future,” NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. “On behalf of America’s private landowners and our conservation district members, we encourage Congress to strongly support all voluntary, locally-led conservation programs by returning full mandatory funding to EQIP, fully funding the Watershed Rehabilitation program, and providing regulatory relief by including S. 364 in a final FY 2018 spending bill.”
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