Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Agriculture Expects $34 Million In Federal Farm Conservation Help

Department of Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff this week told Senate and House Appropriations Committees he is expecting $34 million in help installing farm conservation practices as a result of funding from the federal Farm Bill.
He said Farm Bill funding was for installing conservation practices in farms, including a special program for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, and for technical assistance to help farmers select and design those practices.
Secretary Wolff's written testimony is available online.
Democratic and Republican members of the Committee expressed significant concerns about the proposed 17 percent cut in funding proposed in Gov. Rendell's 2009-10 budget. Eleven of the 28 line items in the agency's budget were zeroed out.
Secretary Wolff acknowledge the difficult budget decisions he had to make, but said he was proud of the fact his agency has created programs copied by his peers across the country.
Other issues raised at the hearings include:
-- Conservation Districts: Agriculture praised the work of conservation districts in helping farmers, despite the $500,000 cut in district funding in his budget (a total of $1 million or 25 percent cut in the overall budget).
-- Cooperative Extension: Agriculture said they would urge funding be restored to the Cooperative Extension Service in Penn State's block grant.
-- Farmland Preservation: It was noted by Committee members the Department of Agriculture was not receiving the 14.8 percent of the Environmental Stewardship Fund earmarked for farmland preservation.

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