Today, the Senate Agriculture Committee reviewed the 2012 Farm Bill and agreed to send it to the Senate floor. I am concerned that they've cut current levels of conservation funding by $6.3 billion.
These programs are vital to our family farmers and our clean water supply. In addition, Wisconsin relies heavily on outdoor conservation and tourism. In fact, the industry supports 129,000 jobs in the state and hunting and fishing another 57,000 jobs. This is the wrong time to be making these drastic cuts to conservation.
Conservation funding supports programs to help reduce sediment flow 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.
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.