Public Policy

From Lynne Sherrod of the Land Trust Alliance-
Farm Bill Timing Update:
  • House and Senate Ag Committees: We were delighted to learn from staff that the goal is for the Farm Bill to be heard in both committees before Memorial Day!The House has tentatively set May 15 to markup the bill and the Senate has yet to announce a date. Leadership of both committees has vowed to have a Farm Bill in place before the extension expires September 30th of this year. One staffer told us they feared for our programs if we had to endure another extension.
  • There is very little concern about our programs within the context of the Farm Bill and a good deal of support for them in general. The battles will be fought over issues other than conservation but will most certainly challenge available funding. We have given serious consideration on how to increase awareness about your good work and may have some additional exciting news for you in the next week or so. Stay tuned!
  • I would say keep your fingers crossed but it’s truly your relationships with your legislators, especially those on the Ag and Appropriations committees, which hold the key to our success in defending these programs and securing the necessary dollars to retain their effectiveness. Be on the lookout for ways to connect with them. More later about that.
Land Trust Farm Bill Priorities:
  • Cost Share Flexibility: In recent weeks, both committees have been open to considering language regarding one of your major issues: increased flexibility for NRCS to recognize additional landowner donation as match! A special thanks if you reached out to committee members! Nothing is set in stone and we still have a significant hill to climb but I am hopeful. Things are going to move quickly from here on out so I will keep you posted regarding next steps.
Funding:
  • Appropriations Committees: Part and parcel of a successful bill is secure funding. In this challenging fiscal climate nothing is certain until these folks are done with their budgeting process. We wanted to raise the profile of the easement programs and make sure they understood the positive impact and multiplying effect that this federal investment has in communities across the country.
  • President’s Budget: We were disappointed the president’s budget further increased the Farm Bill cuts to $38 billion; our fear is that conservation may very well bear the brunt of such a reduction in funding. There have been some conflicting numbers surfacing from sequestration and differing budgets but we are still supporting the $1.58 billion funding level that was identified in the House version of the bill last year and will continue to push both the House and Senate for adoption.
  • White House Update:
    • Council on Environmental Quality & America’s Great Outdoors: It’s important that the administration also be aware of the effectiveness of protecting these working landscapes and understands that there is a direct link between this funding and economic benefit on the ground. I love talking about what you do — it was an honor to share some of your success stories! Keep ‘em comin’!
    • Office of Management and Budget: We met with the Natural Resources Division who deals with NRCS’ budget. I was struck by and heartened to see the number of model tractors and other assorted toy agricultural paraphernalia scattered around the office, which was only lacking in certain forms of livestock representation. I think I may have to remedy that. Seriously though, there was a great deal of interest in your work on the ground, the positive impacts to society at large and a hunger to hear more!

For more information Contact: Lynne Sherrod, Land Trust Alliance lsherrod@lta.org

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