WASHINGTON, D.C.– March 20, 2014–In letters to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees, National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) President Earl Garber outlined NACD’s appropriations priorities for critical conservation programs, including Conservation Technical Assistance, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and Watershed Rehabilitation.
NACD supports President Obama’s 2015 budget of $815 million as a base for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Operations (CO) account in the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) program, part of the CO account administered by NRCS, supports critical, voluntary conservation practices to ensure quality water, productive land and other vital environmental benefits. Additionally, NACD requests that no funds be spent on the implementation of user fees for CTA provided through NRCS.
“User fees will discourage producers from implementing critical conservation practices at a time when they have the heavy burden of meeting the demand of a growing population,” said Garber. “This will ultimately take a toll on our nation’s natural resource base, when as we know, the cost of repair is always greater that the cost of proactive maintenance in the first place.”
For the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NACD supports leaving the Fiscal Year 2015 funding level at $1.6 billion as allocated in the Agriculture Act of 2014. For the Watershed Rehabilitation program, NACD is urging Congress to support and preserve the gains made in the 2014 Farm Bill. While the Administration’s budget proposes no funding for Watershed Rehabilitation, the 2014 Farm Bill provides $250 million for rehabilitation of aging high hazard flood control dams constructed with the assistance of the NRCS Watershed Program. The current Watershed Program funding in the Farm Bill has put NRCS on the path toward a higher level of project implementation.
NACD also supports Interior Subcommittee Appropriations requests in the President’s 2015 budget, including $165 million for the Clean Water Act Section 319 program, a grant program to assist in mitigating nonpoint source pollution, as well as the President’s 2015 request of $229 million for State and Private Forestry programs administered by the USDA Forest Service.
“Successful conservation requires a strong public-private partnership,” said Garber. “Efforts begin at the local level, with technical assistance and funding from federal, state and local governments and the private sector.”
NACD members will be discussing these and other conservation priorities at the upcoming Spring Fly-in, March 25 and 26 in Washington, D.C.