WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Environmental Defense Fund praised the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee for largely rejecting yesterday the Obama administration's call to cut $600 million from six conservation programs administered by the USDA: Agricultural Management Assistance Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Farmland Protection Program, Healthy Forest Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program.

Unfortunately, the Senate panel did cut the largest USDA working lands conservation program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) -- which has a $1 billion backlog -- by $250 million below farm bill levels, as the Administration requested.

"We understand the administration's goal is to cut the deficit, but programs that help drive private investment in public benefits -- like cleaner water, cleaner air and improved habitat for wildlife -- are a great deal for taxpayers," said Sara Hopper, director of agricultural policy for Environmental Defense Fund and a former staff member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "USDA conservation programs assist farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners who offer to spend their own time and money to improve the management of their land to benefit the environment. We are pleased that appropriations panels in both the House and Senate have rejected most of the proposed cuts to conservation programs, but we urge Congress to look for ways to restore the cuts it has made as it finalizes the legislation."

Last month, the House Appropriations Committee also largely rejected the Obama administration's call to cut six voluntary USDA conservation programs by $600 million. However, the panel cut EQIP by $270 million below farm bill levels. The full House is expected to vote on the $22.9 billion appropriations bill as soon as today, after the Rules Committee was to vote last night on a structure for how lawmakers can consider amendments to the bill.

Environmental Defense Fund, a leading national nonprofit organization, represents more than 700,000 members. Since 1967, Environmental Defense Fund has linked science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships to create breakthrough solutions to the most serious environmental problems.

SOURCE: Environmental Defense Fund via PR Newswire.