In light of today's debate about the conservation title of the farm bill, I thought folks in Michigan would be interested in the attached Dear Colleague sent out by Reps. Bonior and Dingell:
October 1, 2001
We urge you to support farmers, dairy operators, foresters, and other private landowners who take action to protect our lands and waters - specifically by voting for the Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest-Dingell amendment to the farm bill.
Today, most agricultural producers in Michigan who seek U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) assistance to protect and enhance water quality, soil quality, and fisheries and wildlife habitat are rejected due to inadequate funding. USDA estimates that in Michigan the current backlog for conservation assistance is at least $45 million. The Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest-Dingell amendment will directly address this unmet demand for conservation assistance by guaranteeing an additional $35 million annually in conservation spending. This increased funding is essential to meet the public's demand for cleaner rivers and streams and to enable farmers to participate in these important conservation efforts.
We also wish to emphasize that H.R. 2646, the bill reported by the House Agriculture Committee, contains a provision that eliminates the long-standing designation of the Great Lakes watershed as a priority area for the major agricultural conservation programs administered by the USDA. This provision appears to be part of a broader effort to eliminate the use of sound environmental criteria for allocating conservation funds. Fortunately, the Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest-Dingell amendment maintains the Great Lakes priority designation while expanding and strengthening agricultural conservation programs.
Last week, the Bush Administration issued its long-awaited recommendations on U.S. agriculture programs and policies. In a report entitled Food and Agricultural Policy: Taking Stock for the New Century, Agriculture Secretary Veneman outlined serious weaknesses in current agricultural policy, including the need to increase conservation spending. Through increases to existing conservation programs, the Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest-Dingell amendment would not only provide the public with cleaner water and air, improved soil quality, and expanded wildlife habitat, but also supply our diverse agricultural producers with much needed income support. It is a common-sense approach to supporting our farmers and protecting our environment.
We urge you to support the Boehlert-Kind-Gilchrest-Dingell amendment and join us in the effort to make the next farm bill more equitable and responsive to the demand for increased conservation by our farmers, dairy operators, and foresters.
John D.Dingell David E. Bonior