The U.S. Farm Bill does more than fund agricultural programs. It is also the source of money for the SNAP, or food stamp program, and is also the largest source of conservation funding in the federal budget. A coalition of groups from the Great Lakes region is calling on federal legislators to pass the Farm Bill.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is the largest advocacy coalition in the Great Lakes region working on federal funding for Great Lakes restoration. Members of the coalition, which include environmental, zoological and conservation groups in New York State, are calling on Congress, and in particular the U.S. House, to pass the federal Farm Bill. Coalition Director Jeff Skelding notes that more than 500-million dollars is awarded annually to farmers in the Great Lakes states for conservation programs to protect the environment and control pollution.
Skelding says a 2011 study by the USDA found that conservation practices funded thru Farm Bill programs resulted in significant declines in sediment, phosphorus and nitrogen loading, highlighting the importance of continued funding.
Ohio Environmental Council Director of Agriculture Programs Joe Logan says as farmers increased productivity over the years, they profoundly altered the environment.
Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Policy Director Chad Lord says there is an uncertain future for the 2012 Farm Bill.
The 2012 Farm Bill contains about 58 billion dollars for rural conservation programs, cutting 6 billion dollars over ten years. It includes a new regional program to target funding to priority regions, including the Great Lakes region.