Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group, said the bill “is a shortsighted and counterproductive move.”
Sixteen other conservation groups, including the National Wildlife Federation and the American Farmland Trust, also sent congressional leaders a letter opposing the bill.
The bill cuts the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program and Faber said EQIP is used to get farmers to use water more efficiently.
“It is time for Congress to stop using conservation programs as an ATM for other priorities. At a moment when tens of millions of acres are being converted into cropland to meet a misguided corn ethanol mandate, cuts to the programs meant to blunt agriculture’s impact on the landscape result in an environmental double-whammy, undermining efforts to protect source water and protect wildlife,” Faber said.
He said the drought relief should be paid for by cutting direct farm subsidy payments.
Farm lobbyists are still angling for a full five-year farm bill and hope that it can be passed this year.
Commodity groups said that the disaster bill is unnecessary since the full bill would address the drought and have deeper deficit savings.
They said “this bill potentially costs more than $600 million and would only provide relief to livestock producers a month or two earlier than a farm bill debated and passed in September.”
“Agriculture will already provide a minimum of $23 billion in deficit reduction by passing the farm bill. We do not need to provide additional deficit reduction in this package only a few months before we provide far more than agriculture’s ‘fair share,’ " the group letter states.
It is signed by American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Barley Growers Association, the National Corn Growers Association, the National Farmers Union, the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Sunflower Association, the United Fresh Produce Association, the U.S. Canola Association, the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and the Western Growers.