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Public Statements

Limiting Transfer of Certain Commodity Credit Corporation Funds

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


LIMITING TRANSFER OF CERTAIN COMMODITY CREDIT CORPORATION FUNDS -- (House of Representatives - December 06, 2004)

Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the Senate bill (S. 2856) to limit the transfer of certain Commodity Credit Corporation funds between conservation programs for technical assistance for the programs.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of S. 2856. Conservation was a significant part of the 2002 farm bill. Congress increased the conservation budget by nearly $2 billion per year, a 75 percent increase. However, there is a current shortfall in the Conservation Technical Service Assistance budget at the Natural Resources Conservation Service. This shortfall represents the costs necessary to administer the Conservation Reserve and Wetlands Reserve programs.

So far, those costs have been taken directly out of the pockets of farmers and ranchers, and, if you permit me, the environment, when fewer conservation benefits are provided by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the other so-called donor programs. In other words, the NRCS takes money from EQIP and farmland protection so that CRP and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program and WRP can be administered.

The USDA has also been using the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, or WHIP, the Farmland Protection Program, FPP, and the Grasslands Reserve Program as donor programs for CRP and WRP.

S. 2856 will help alleviate some of the implementation problems that have occurred during the last 2 years when approximately $100 million per year was being taken from the four donor programs. When the farm bill was written, it was Congress' intent that each conservation program would pay for its own technical assistance. I have been working with the Committee on the Budget and the Committee on Appropriations committees to ensure S. 2856's passage will prevent funds from being diverted from the donor programs. I have numerous groups supporting the bill, and I will include for the Record these letters.

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, DC, December 3, 2004.

DEAR CONGRESSMAN: We write today to ask for your support of S. 2856 on Monday, December 6, 2004. This bill, which has been adopted in the Senate, addresses a misunderstanding that has existed between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Congress as to the source of funding for the technical assistance costs for certain Farm Bill conservation programs.

S. 2856 ensures that the original intent of Congress will be used in the implementation of these programs where each of them will be expected to pay for their own technical assistance from their own share of the total funding made available to them. As passed by the Farm Bill, these programs have a significant backlog of requests from farmers and ranchers for conservation assistance.

We wholeheartedly support S. 2856 because without it several of these conservation programs will be significantly hampered from achieving their intended purpose-helping farmers and ranchers improve and conserve soil, air and water quality and restore and improve wildlife habitat. We ask for your strong support of this measure when it comes before the House on December 6, 2004.

Sincerely,

National Soybean Association.
National Pork Producers Council.
National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
National Association of Conservation Districts.
National Association of Wheat Growers.
National Corn Growers Association.
National Cotton Council.
National Farmers Union.
National Milk Producers Federation.
National Turkey Federation.
Southeast Dairy Farmers Association.
Western United Dairymen.
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December 6, 2004.

DEAR REPRESENTATIVE: We strongly urge that you enact S. 2856 to ensure that USDA stops the practice of diverting funds from the dollar-limited, working lands conservation programs to pay for technical assistance costs associated with land requirement programs.

Since enactment of the 2002 Farm Bill, USDA has diverted more than $200 million from EQIP, the Farmland and Ranchland Protection Program (FRPP), the Grasslands Reserve Program, and the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) to pay for technical assistance for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Unless this problem is fixed, farmers and ranchers seeking to improve water and air quality and enhance wildlife habitat stand to lose approximately $100 million in FY05 and nearly $300 million in FY06 and FY07.

S. 2856 protects funding for all USDA conservation programs. S. 2856 ensures that funding for CRP and WRP technical assistance flows directly from the Commodity Credit Corporation, not from working lands conservation programs. S. 2856 passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent on October 11, 2004, and the House-passed FY05 Congressional Budget Resolution specifically provides for the passage of the same legislation by the House. It is critical that S. 2856 is passed by the 108th Congress or scarce conservation funds will once again be lost in FY05 and subsequent years.

S. 2856 restores the original intent of the 2002 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill clearly intended USDA to use mandatory funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to pay for CRP and WRP technical assistance. The plain language of the statute and legislative history support this interpretation of the Farm Bill, and the General Accounting Office concurred in an October 8, 2002, opinion. Unfortunately, a handful of government lawyers misinterpreted the 2002 Farm Bill, forcing USDA to divert funds from EQIP and other working lands programs or shut down CRP and WRP.

We strongly urge you to support passage of S. 2856 to ensure that funding for technical assistance for all Farm Bill conservation programs, including CRP and WRP, comes directly from the CCC, as intended by the 2002 Farm Bill.

Sincerely,

American Farmland Trust.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Defenders of Wildlife.
Environmental Defense.
National Wildlife Federation.
National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
Natural Resources Defense Council.
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Union of Concerned Scientists.

As you can see from the letters, S. 2856 receives extremely broad and deep support. Groups from varied interests such as the National Cattleman's Beef Association and Environmental Defense are all strident supporters of S. 2856. These organizations, along with nearly 25 others, representing producers and environmental interests, encourage passage of S. 2856.

I would like to thank the gentleman from Iowa (Chairman Nussle) and the gentleman from Texas (Chairman BONILLA) and their staff for their assistance. I would like to thank the ranking member, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. STENHOLM), for his support of this effort. But I cannot stress enough how much I want to thank our subcommittee chairman, the gentleman from Oklahoma (Chairman LUCAS), who has worked on this issue for years to try to get a correction, and I think that this goes a long way in helping what needs to be done get done here.

I also cannot stress enough how important these programs are or how important it is that producers have access to programs to keep the soil and air clean and to improve and restore wildlife habitat.

I urge my colleagues to support S. 2856 to ensure voluntary conservation programs are allowed to work efficiently and effectively.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Oklahoma (Mr. LUCAS) the chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation, Credit, Rural Development and Research of the Committee on Agriculture, who has been a real leader in fighting for fairness in these conservation programs.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. HOLDEN) for his contribution, as well, to this effort, and also more especially thank him for the kind words he has extended to our colleague, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. STENHOLM), who has served this Congress with distinction for 26 years, the last 8 of which as the ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture. He is known across the country as somebody who has helped American agriculture.

He worked with my predecessor, our colleague Congressman Combest, his neighbor, former neighbor in Texas, to write the last farm bill which has been a noteworthy success in the first almost 4 years now of its implementation. He is somebody that I will miss as my partner in working with American agriculture, and I thank him and commend him for more than a quarter century of service to the people of this country.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support S. 2856, and I yield back the balance of my time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. SIMPSON). The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. GOODLATTE) that the House suspend the rules and pass the Senate bill, S. 2856.

The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor thereof) the rules were suspended and the Senate bill was passed.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

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