Last Minute Budget Makes Long-Term Mistakes: Press Statement by Amalie Lipstreu

Contact:
Amalie Lipstreu, Policy Program Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 208, amalie@oeffa.org
Lauren Ketcham, Communications Coordinator, (614) 421-2022 Ext. 203, lauren@oeffa.org

“A new spending bill unveiled by Congress this week removes critical resources for voluntary conservation programs that help farmers with the work of protecting our natural resources. Hundreds of millions of dollars are stripped from programs highly utilized by farmers including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

This move will cut funding which the 2014 Farm Bill made mandatory. It is a backdoor approach to de-fund agricultural programs by those putting together the budget bill.  When environmental regulation is opposed, voluntary approaches to address environmental concerns are held up as the solution. The commitment to improving agriculture and the environment is called into question when those measures are undercut.

The EQIP program is an important tool for farmers implementing measures to address natural resource concerns, like toxic algae affecting Ohio’s waterways such as Lake Erie and Grand Lake St. Marys. Nationally more than1.5 million acres were planted with cover crops between 2009 and 2012 as a result of the EQIP program, helping to reduce nutrient runoff.

The demand for EQIP technical assistance and resources already exceeds the funding allocated to Ohio. Further reductions in funding are a disincentive to conservation.

The new spending bill also includes a detrimental anti-farmer provision that would create an unfair marketplace for meat and poultry producers. It removes protection from retaliation when they use their first amendment rights, denies them the right to a jury trial, and even denies them the right to know how the prices they receive are calculated. This should not be part of any legislation in a free market economy.

As lawmakers hurriedly craft a deal to prevent government shutdown, sustainable agriculture and the rights of family farmers should not be sacrificed.”