_The U.S. House of Representatives' approval of nearly $1 billion in cuts to USDA conservation programs in the agriculture appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012 is bad policy that the Senate needs to fix, according to a leading conservation group."We realize that Congress faces tough budget choices, but making draconian cuts to voluntary conservation programs that help farmers and ranchers provide all Americans with cleaner air and water, more productive soils and habitat for wildlife is penny-wise and dollar-foolish," said Sara Hopper, agricultural policy director for Environmental Defense Fund and a former staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "The Senate needs to restore reasonable funding levels for conservation programs for the benefit of our environment and taxpayers."
_"..."The demand for enrollment in these programs routinely exceeds the funds available, even without any cuts," the groups' letter concluded. "Failure to support our farmers, ranchers, foresters, and natural resource base today will jeopardize our agricultural industry, drive up long term costs for environmental mitigation, and threaten our nation's food security. The House-passed bill today includes large cuts to two extremely popular working lands programs that have improved soil, air, and water quality on farms and ranches across the country: the Conservation Stewardship Program ($210 million cut) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program ($350 million cut). There often are more applications for the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program than funds available for either program.