VICE PRESIDENT GORE ANNOUNCES ADMINISTRATION WILL SEEK
Washington, DC -- Vice President Al Gore announced today that the Administration will seek nearly $1.3 billion in the FY 2001 budget for conservation programs that help family farmers take steps to protect water quality and the environment and to preserve farmland. This conservation package is part of a larger Administration budget proposal to strengthen the farm safety net.
"Farmers are among the most important stewards of our land and water," Vice President Gore said. "Despite the accomplishments made in recent years in stopping soil erosion and protecting water quality, agriculture's environmental challenges are multiplying. The initiatives that I am announcing today will provide needed financial support to our family farmers as well as tremendous environmental benefits for the American people."
The Vice President also praised Senator Harkin and Representative Boswell for their involvement in helping to develop this policy.
"Senator Harkin, a long time and well known friend of agriculture was particularly instrumental in shaping this program to best help the interests of America's working farmers," said Vice President Gore.
The centerpiece of the proposal is a new $600 million program providing additional income to family farmers who voluntarily adopt comprehensive plans to curb erosion and protect water supplies from pesticide and nutrient runoff.
An additional $125 million will be used to provide opportunities for farmers to benefit through USDA's Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for farmers to establish buffer strips along waterways to improve water quality. The proposal also asks Congress to expand CRP so that an additional 4 million acres of farmland (for a total of 40 million acres) may be enrolled in the program.
An additional $550 million will be used to strengthen several other USDA programs to assist farmers with conservation and environmental efforts. These programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Wetlands Reserve Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program. This funding also will be used to expand technical assistance for farmers and ranchers for conservation efforts and expand the Farmland Protection Program.
Conservation Initiatives in the 2001 Farm Safety Net Proposal
Strengthening the Farm Safety Net Through Conservation: The Administration believes a crucial part of the farm safety net that will yield benefits to all Americans is providing assistance to farmers and ranchers who practice environmentally sound land management. This conservation initiative will help farmers and ranchers continue to protect and enhance the environment, while increasing farm family income. Through these USDA programs, participants can receive cost-share assistance, technical assistance, and in many cases, annual payments, for high-priority conservation activities, including wetlands restoration, farmland protection, and comprehensive nutrient management. The proposal, totaling nearly $1.3 billion in FY 2001 mandatory funding, would:
Fund a new Conservation Security Program at $600 million in FY 2001 and 2002;
Conservation Security Program
Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP)
The 1996 Farm Bill authorized the WRP to enroll 975,000 cumulative acres. After FY 2000, there will be only 40,000 acres left to enroll under the cap. The Initiative would remove the acreage cap and enroll an additional 210,000 acres in FY 2001, for a total of 250,000 acres, and an additional 250,000 acres in each subsequent year. (Legislation required.)
Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
Conservation Reserve Program "Continuous Sign-up" Bonuses The Administration also plans to offer bonuses totaling up to $100 million in FY 2000 and up to $125 million in fiscal years 2001-2002 to producers who enroll land in CRP through the "continuous signup." The CRP continuous sign-up allows producers to enroll certain high priority practices such as grassed waterways, filter strips, and riparian buffers at any time during the year. These bonuses will help offset much of the expense of installing costly continuous signup practices, and encourage enrollment of high environmental-value acreage. (No congressional action required.)
Farmland Protection Program (FPP)
Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP)
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will provide additional technical assistance to farmers and ranchers to carry out these enhanced programs. NRCS technical expertise will ensure the practices associated with the programs are implemented successfully and maximize environmental benefits. (Legislation required.)
This historic conservation Initiative will be financed within the context of the FY 2001 balanced budget, which protects Social Security, that the President will submit to Congress on February 7, 2000.