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Members of the House and Senate will return to Washington, D.C. after the mid-term elections with a full plate of business. One item on the agenda is the 2018 Farm Bill which farm-group leaders hope will be passed before the end of the year.

A letter written by a diverse group of farm, wildlife and environmental groups asks lawmakers for a “robust investment” for USDA conservation programs in the budget reconciliation program.

“Increasing funding for USDA’s popular and effective Farm Bill conservation programs is one of the quickest and most practical ways to directly equip farmers and ranchers, energize rural economies, improve climate resilience, and ensure that agriculture is part of the solution to climate change,” says the letter on behalf of 216 groups to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12).

The letter notes that farm bill conservation programs are “routinely oversubscribed” and “conservation on 13.8 million acres goes unmet because of inadequate funding every year.” The groups ask lawmakers “to double” the investment in farm bill conservation programs to meet the need to implement conservation programs. They also call for an increase in technical assistance programs to assist ranchers and farmers. 

“We believe farmers, ranchers, and foresters are ready to move agriculture toward net-zero emissions if they are provided the tools and resources to make that goal a reality,” the letter reads. “Action this year on the climate and infrastructure bill represents the best opportunity in decades to meet farmer demand for conservation programs.”

According to Fern’s Ag Insider, President Joe Biden has asked for a $300-million-a-year increase in land stewardship programs in his budget. A doubling of funding would amount to $50 billion over 10 years, according to farm policy consultant Ferd Hoefner.

The letter follows one sent by a coalition of 12 agriculture and conservation groups to congressional leaders calling for an increase in funding for “climate-smart agriculture practices.” The letter asks for an increase in conservation spending, rural broadband and expresses concern about proposed tax policies in the bipartisan infrastructure package. — Charles Wallace, WLJ editor

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