Supporting Rural Agriculture and Conservation

June 16, 2011

Earlier today, my fellow Pennsylvania colleague, Rep. Tim Holden (PA-17), offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act that would preserve conservation funding for farms, ranches, and agricultural lands in Pennsylvania and across the nation. With agriculture conservation being such a critically important effort in helping to protect environmentally sensitive areas and improving water quality on our local farms and rural areas of the 5th district, I offered my support of the amendment and delivered the following remarks during today’s debate.  

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Mr. Speaker, as the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy & Forestry, I rise in strong support of this amendment offered by my friend from Pennsylvania and Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, Mr. Holden. 

This amendment will restore limited mandatory funding for conservation programs as defined under the current Farm bill. 

I believe it’s important to note that this amendment does not have any additional cost – we’re still within the frame of the appropriations committee’s allocation for the bill. 

This amendment simply preserves critical conservation programs, which remain important on many farms, ranches, and agricultural lands around the nation, in order to protect environmentally sensitive areas. 

The programs offer voluntary incentives for farmers and ranchers to enroll land into conservation areas. 

In my district, these programs are vital for water quality improvement on our local farms and throughout the region. This is the same for many other states.

The programs are cost effective and provide excellent returns on investment – while utilizing local, state, and private funding so everyone involved has ‘skin in the game’. 

The amendment again does not increase the bill’s cost by even one penny because it is fully offset by reducing the bill’s discretionary funding by 5.88%.

I commend the appropriations subcommittee chair for his efforts to produce an overall bill that is fiscally responsible and reduces funding in total by 13% in comparison to the previous fiscal year. 

As the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over these programs, I can say very frankly to my good friend from Georgia that I look forward to the next farm bill, where the authorizing committee can further explore making these programs even more efficient and even more cost effective --- more so than they already are. 

However, changes to programs as defined under the current Farm bill – especially when it comes to the mandatory spending in this amendment – I believe should be handled by the Agriculture Committee, not the appropriations process.