Congress is expected to pass an appropriations bill this week that for the remainder of this fiscal year would provide strong support for many of the voluntary conservation programs that millions of landowners nationwide utilize to protect and improve America’s water quality, soil health, and wildlife habitat.
“NACD is very pleased that House and Senate appropriators have finally reached an agreement that will support funding for critical conservation programs,” NACD President Brent Van Dyke said. “The investments Congress makes now in voluntary, incentive-based conservation will yield natural resource and economic benefits for many generations of Americans to come.”
The funding bill includes a $13.6 million increase to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Operations account, which supports the vitally important Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program. Congress also allocated a $6 million increase in funding to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Section 319 non-point source grant program, $28.6 million for the Emergency Conservation program, $21 million for the Watershed Rehabilitation program, and for the first time since Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, funded the Watershed Operations (PL-566) program at $150 million.
While NACD is pleased no reductions were proposed in mandatory funding for most conservation programs, we were disappointed that Congress kept a $300 million reduction in mandatory funding for the already over-subscribed NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and reduced discretionary funding for the Forest Service’s State and Private Forestry program by $20 million.
“Every dollar reduction in voluntary conservation programs means less conservation is implemented on our nation’s working farms and forestlands,” NACD CEO Jeremy Peters said. “Fortunately, Congress has elected to maintain or increase funding for the majority of the voluntary conservation programs this nation’s private landowners rely on. We look forward to continuing our work with Congress to ensure that CTA, and other voluntary conservation programs like it, receive continued strong funding in FY18.”