U.S. Rep. Ron Kind today voiced his concern with the Senate Ag Committee's markup of the 2012 Farm Bill, which slashes current levels of support for conservation by $6.3 billion.
"These programs are vital to our family farmers and our clean water supply," said Rep. Kind. "In addition, many state economies, including Wisconsin's, rely heavily on outdoor conservation and tourism. This is the wrong time to be making these drastic cuts to conservation."
Conservation funding supports incentive-based land and water programs to help reduce sediment flow that would otherwise pollute our rivers and streams, and is vital to helping farmers be good stewards of the land. Today, more than half of the farmers applying for conservation programs are turned away due to inadequate funding. Coupled with rising commodity prices driving highly erodible land back into production, support for these programs is more important than ever.
Wisconsin's robust outdoor recreation industry contributes $9.7 billion to the economy, supports 129,000 jobs in the state, generates $570 million in annual state tax revenue, and produces $7.5 billion annually in retail sales and services across Wisconsin. (Outdoor Industry Foundation) In addition, hunting and angling supports 57,000 jobs in Wisconsin (Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation) and according to a study by the Trout Unlimited Driftless Area Initiative, recreational trout angling generates an economic benefit of $1.1 billion annually in the four state driftless area.
"Clearly the farm bill needs reform. But deep cuts to conservation programs are not the answer. There is waste to be found -- including the billions of dollars in farm subsidies supporting few but very large agribusinesses or the taxpayer funds going to subsidize Brazil's cotton industry. We've got to weigh our priorities here and ensure a smart farm and food bill for the 21st century."
Kind is co-chair of the bipartisan National Parks Caucus, former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus and founding member of the Wildlife Refuge Caucus. Kind served on the House Natural Resources Committee from 1996-2010. He played a significant role in the 2007 farm bill through his amendment to reform wasteful taxpayer funded farm subsidies going to large agribusinesses.