WASHINGTON, April 5, 2017 – Capitol Hill appropriators received a pair of letters Wednesday outlining funding priorities for conservation and waterway infrastructure.
One letter was signed by more than 220 ag, wildlife, and conservation groups; the other by 22 farm organizations.
In the conservation letter addressed to the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate subcommittees responsible for agriculture appropriations, the groups oppose cuts to program funding, pointing to initiatives that were either consolidated or eliminated in the 2014 farm bill.
“It is estimated that sequestration alone will cut $254 million from mandatory conservation spending in FY 2018,” the groups – led by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and National Association of Conservation Districts, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership – say in the letter. “Opening up the farm bill to further cut these programs should be off the table in the FY 2018 appropriations bill.”
The groups also asked appropriators to “reject the President’s proposed cuts to (Natural Resources Conservation Service) field staff, and instead urge you to provide at least $865 million in discretionary funding for Conservation Operations, which includes critical funding for Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA).”
In a separate letter, members of the Agricultural Transportation Working Group called for “continued funding support” for the nation’s inland waterway infrastructure. Specifically, they ask for the “full amount supportable by the barge diesel fuel tax” to go into the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, a minimum funding level of $3.173 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations and maintenance account, and proper spending targets to cover operations and maintenance activities.
“From an agricultural users’ perspective, having access to modern and efficient inland waterways and ports is vital to the production, marketing and shipment of agricultural products in international commerce,” the working group says in the letter addressed to leaders of the full committees as well as subcommittees of jurisdiction.
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