USDA Rejects Most Requests For Conservation Funding

Most farmers seeking U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) help to improve water quality, combat sprawl, or protect rare wildlife species are rejected due to inadequate funding, according to an analysis conducted by Environmental Defense, American Farmland Trust, Environmental Working Group, and The Trust for Public Land. Nationwide, the analysis found:

  • 70% of farmers and ranchers seeking USDA funds to help water quality are rejected due to inadequate funding.

  • More than 3,000 farmers offering to restore more than 500,000 acres of wetlands are being rejected.

  • Nine-out-of-ten landowners offering to preserve open space by selling development rights are being rejected.

  • 3,000 farmers and ranchers offering to create habitat on their land are being rejected.

“Clearly, landowners are anxious to preserve open space, improve water quality, and restore habitat for rare species,” said Environmental Defense attorney Scott Faber. “The next Farm Bill should provide sufficient funds to reward farmers, ranchers and private foresters when they need federal help to meet environmental challenges.”

“Boosting conservation payments will also ensure that federal farm payments flow to all farmers, ranchers and foresters, and to all states,” Faber said. Only 15 states received a combined annual average of $12.2 billion in FY 1998 and FY 1999 — or 74% of all direct payments to farmers. At the same time, five of the nation’s largest agricultural states; Florida, California, New York, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania received just 6% of federal farm spending even though these states jointly account for 29% of the gross revenues earned by America’s farmers. Environmental Defense urged Congress to support the Working Lands Stewardship Act, championed by Ron Kind (D-WI) and Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), which boosts annual conservation payments by more than $7 billion.

To review state-by-state conservation backlog data, read the report Losing Ground.

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