Dear Congress: Please protect federal conservation program funding

Federal working lands conservation programs, such as the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, give farmers the tools they need to help build soil health, protect natural resources, and improve water quality — all while maintaining productivity on their land. The stewardship practices in these programs can even help in reducing input costs — which is all too important in today’s agricultural economy.

Alongside more than 140 farm, conservation, and wildlife groups across the country, the Center for Rural Affairs asks Congressional appropriators to protect federal conservation program funding in fiscal year 2020.

In addition, the Center urges appropriators to protect Conservation Technical Assistance funding. Robust funding for Conservation Technical Assistance is critical for supporting our nation’s farmers in accessing the conservation programs. With technical assistance from Natural Resources Conservation Service staff, producers are better equipped to adopt conservation practices that make environmental and financial sense for their operations.

While the 2018 farm bill protected total funding levels for the Conservation Title, a significant portion of those dollars were shifted away from working lands conservation programs. Any additional cuts to conservation funding in the interim will result in an increase in the number of farmers denied access to programs that work on productive acres. We therefore ask Congressional appropriators to show strong support for conservation funding in the appropriations process.