Amendment would help conservation, commodity, and research programs
Washington, DC â??Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, will offer an amendment today during the Committeeâ??s markup of agriculture reconciliation legislation to reallocate nearly $1 billion from reauthorizing the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program. The amendment would restore proposed reductions in funding for conservation, commodity and research programs. The MILC program, which expired at the end of September, was originally included in the 2002 Farm Bill. The program has already cost taxpayers more than $2 billion, with only a small group of dairy farmers benefiting. Crapo is bringing the amendment because of concerns raised in meetings with Idaho dairymen as well as many others through the agriculture and conservation communities. Additionally, reauthorizing the MILC program to benefit a small number comes at the expense of many other commodity, conservation and research programs that are vital to agriculture as a whole. Currently, an extension of the MILC program is included in the 2006 Agriculture Budget Reconciliation measure. â??As Congress works to fund hurricane relief efforts and extend vital tax relief for teachers, students, small businesses and middle income families, it is necessary that we stay the course on budget reconciliation,â?? Crapo said. â??However, reauthorizing MILC through budget reconciliation at the cost of $998 million is effectively being done at the expense of other farm, conservation, and research programs. Farm families are working to stay viable in the wake of extreme weather conditions and soaring fuel prices, and they should not have to face reduced payments and pared down conservation and research programs simply to reauthorize an ineffective program.â??Specifically, Crapoâ??s amendment, which is co-sponsored by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Senator Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming), would return $615 million to commodity programs through a decrease in the 2.5 percent reduction in producer payments to 1.28 percent and a decrease in the sugar forfeiture penalty from 1.2 percent to 0.66 percent. Additionally, the amendment would return $333 million to conservation programs by eliminating the $129 million reductions to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the $104 million reductions to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and decrease by $100 million the reductions to the Conservation Security Program (CSP). The amendment would also restore $50 million to the Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems program. â??Conservation programs have been instrumental in assisting producers and landowners with meeting environmental goals while enhancing and contributing to wildlife habitat, and the agriculture industry is working hard to compete successfully on a global market,â?? said Crapo. â??These programs that assist farmers with competing successfully and continuing to be good stewards of the land should be properly supported.â??The Agriculture Budget Reconciliation legislation that is before committee today will go to the Senate Budget Committee, where it will be bundled into a comprehensive budget reconciliation package before going to the Senate floor in the coming weeks. The committee also previously stated the reconciliation package will not include a previously proposed reduction of $547 million from the food stamp program.