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Trump Administration Would Slash 22 Percent of Farm Bill's Conservation Funding

The Farm Bill is one of the federal government's biggest, most controversial (yet still intractable) bills. The Trump Administration has plans for change.
April 10, 2018, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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"The Trump administration wants to slash the federal government’s biggest source of funds for conservation on private land," reports Eilís O'Neill.

Those cuts would come from the Farm Bill, which was most recently updated in 2014. According to O'Neill, "[t]he Trump administration is proposing cutting 22 percent, or $1.3 billion per year, out of the Farm Bill’s conservation budget."

As explained by O'Neill, the conservation budget traditionally included in the Farm Bill is a persistent source of controversy. Critics say the Farm Bill's funding formula pays farmers to do what they would be doing anyway—not farming their least productive land. To counter that point, O'Neill cites Erik Lichtenberg, a professor of agriculture economics at the University of Maryland who has studied the issue. "He says, though estimates vary, it’s pretty certain Farm Bill programs do lead to farmers conserving land they would otherwise farm."

Despite that endorsement, Lichtenberg says the Farm Bill is in need of reform—to shift conservation funding toward verifiable environmental benefit. The cuts proposed by the Trump Administration would not achieve those effects, however.

The administration proposes saving money by capping rental payments and excluding farmers who make more than $500,000 per year from the programs.

That makes the programs “more like income support for farmers than paying for environmental improvements,” Lichtenberg says.

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Published on Monday, April 9, 2018 in Crosscut
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