Congressman Frank Lucas amended an agricultural spending bill yesterday to help states deal with inadequate funding they receive from Washington to administer Natural Resources Conservation Service programs, by eliminating all funding for the salary and expenses of the Washington bureaucrat who administers the program.
”I’ve been working for almost two years to get this funding problem rectified between the state and federal NRCS offices,” Lucas said. “Maybe this will get their attention.”
The amendment eliminated all $810,000 in federal funding for salaries and expenses of Washington office of the USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and the Environment, which administers NRCS programs. Lucas will work to ensure the funding is directed to the states to help them meet their technical assistance needs.
State NRCS offices, including Oklahoma, are struggling to pay for technical assistance for USDA programs. Technical assistance helps landowners plan and implement soil and water cost-share conservation practices such as EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) and WRP(Wetlands Reserve Program). It is administered by NRCS field staff and conservation district employees.
”Congress can write laws to create conservation programs that work in theory, but you have to have adequate technical assistance funding to make sure the programs work in the field,” Lucas said. “These programs help conserve soil and water, create preserves to enhance wildlife, and establish areas that can be used by both wildlife lovers and hunters as well. I’m hopeful that this amendment will provide the incentive for us to rectify this funding issue when we work out the final version of this bill.”
Lucas’ amendment passed by a voice vote. The Agriculture Appropriations bill, H.R. 5384, is expected to pass the House today. The Senate has yet to pass its version of the legislation.
Agriculture Appropriations Committee Chairman Henry Bonilla spoke in favor of Lucas’ amendment on the House floor today.
”When a gentleman who works as hard and as sincerely as Mr. Lucas does on this issue, it is just unconscionable that he can’t get the response he needs,” Bonilla said. “I support the gentleman’s amendment with enthusiasm.”