Conservation programs that already have suffered $3.8 billion in cuts since the 2002 farm bill were hit again today as the House Appropriation Committee released its FY06 Agriculture Appropriations Bill.

The total amount by which all conservation programs were cut has not yet been released, but programs designed to protect working lands were cut by $495 million below their authorized levels.

“Seventy five percent of farmers who apply for funding from conservation funding are turned away from receiving funds they need to practice good stewardship on their land – practices that benefit everyone,” said Ralph Grossi, president of American Farmland Trust. “Cutting these programs means dirtier water, less habitat for wildlife and less farmland for future generations.”

Among the hardest hit was the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program (FRPP), which has now been cut by $90 million since passage of the 2002 farm bill. America is losing 3,000 acres of farm and ranch land every day, and is losing the most productive land the fastest. In its first three years, the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program protected over 300,000 acres of the country’s best agricultural lands.

“FRPP is a good deal for American taxpayers,” said Grossi. “Historically, this program has leveraged state and local funding for farmland protection at a rate of three dollars for every federal dollar invested. Land prices are on the rise – it makes sense to invest taxpayer dollars now.”

The public and most farmers support stewardship-based farm policies that encourage more diverse farming systems, reduce economic and environmental risks and produce a broader array of public benefits.

Public opinion surveys conducted by American Farmland Trust indicate that 85 percent of voters expect and are willing to pay farmers for those benefits, and at least 65 percent of urban-edge landowners would welcome such payments.