Groups oppose cuts in U.S. land stewardship programs

WASHINGTON Tue Sep 9, 2008 3:57pm EDT

A cow grazes in the harvested corn fields outside Iowa City, Iowa, November 14, 2007. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A cow grazes in the harvested corn fields outside Iowa City, Iowa, November 14, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sixteen groups asked the House and Senate Appropriations committees on Tuesday to forgo $331 million in cuts under consideration for land stewardship programs in the fiscal year opening on October 1.

"We urge you to ensure that the 2008 farm bill delivers on its commitment to conservation on our working farms, ranches and forests," said the groups in a letter.

Among the 16 groups signing the letter were American Farmland Trust, National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation and Izaak Walton League of America.

Separately, the Environmental Working Group said the cuts amounted to a "farm bill bait-and-switch routine" of promising more stewardship money to build support for the farm bill and reneging after the law took effect.

The largest cut, $285 million, would be made in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which shares the cost with landowners to control runoff from fields and feedlots. It would get $1.052 billion under a Senate bill, the same level as in 2002, said Craig Cox of EWG.

Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition noted EQIP has been identified for cuts in proposals by the House, Senate and White House.

President George W. Bush suggested on August 1 a cut of $287 million in EQIP to pay for new Agriculture Department computers and other USDA work to implement the 2008 farm law. Under the White House proposal, EQIP would get $1.05 billion, compared to the $1.337 billion authorized by the farm law.

(Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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