Why a Farm Bill Matters to ESLT
Congress’s recent failure to pass a Farm Bill has been hot news this past week. Although most Farm Bills gain wide support and face few approval issues, the one proposed earlier this year made cuts and changes that most representatives viewed as untenable. What’s next? A new, more passable Farm Bill has to be designed, submitted, and passed – before the end of the year.
This topic hits home for us: failure to pass a Farm Bill would greatly affect our work in land preservation. The bill sees to it that federal funding for important conservation projects is awarded efficiently and effectively. Under the bill, the NRCS manages a competitive grant process that can cover up to 50% of the cost of conservation easement acquisitions that meet strict program criteria (the other half comes from state-funded grant programs, landowner donations, and other sources). Like many other land trusts nationwide, ESLT relies heavily on this NRCS program to obtain the funds we need to purchase easements – particularly on properties that contain strong agricultural values. If the farm bill fails to pass, we risk losing a vital financial source that allows us to prevent the development and subdivision of the wild and working lands we strive to protect.
Regardless of political leaning, everyone agrees that the Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation: it supports our small farms and propels our country’s economic recovery. But its environmental impact is equally crucial. As a new bill is introduced in these upcoming months, we will be watching closely with the hope that it will not become yet another casualty of party politics.