Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself as much time as I might consume.
I rise in strong opposition to this amendment.
The conservation title has gone through many reforms by combining and eliminating duplicative programs. The result, I believe, is a fair, balanced, and flexible conservation title that addresses the natural resource concerns of farmers, ranchers, and landowners. However, the gentleman's amendment seeks to undo this balance by stripping the EQIP program of the authorities that make it unique.
The EQIP program is arguably the most successful conservation program administered by the NRCS. Through cost share assistance, these programs help farmers and ranchers meet and exceed national, State, and local environmental regulations.
Known as the bricks and mortar of the program, farmers and ranchers depend on EQIP for assistance to build waste storage facilities, eliminate nutrient runoff, and purchase equipment like methane digesters. [Page: H3866]
The gentleman's amendment would fundamentally change EQIP with arbitrary limits that would reduce livestock producers' participation and restrict the types of conservation programs that could be implemented. With EPA and environmental groups targeting livestock operations, we should not diminish the program's current authorities.
The amendment would make EQIP no different than any other working lands program and eliminate an essential tool that farmers and ranchers depend on to meet increasing environmental regulations.
I urge my colleagues to oppose the amendment and reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. PETERSON. I thank the gentleman.
I rise in opposition to the amendment, not that I disagree with the intent here, and I think that if you look at the EQIP program, you will see that it has primarily been utilized by smaller producers around the country. But I just want to give you an example of the real world here of how this works in my district.
We have the Sauk River in my district, which is a beautiful river that has probably 100 dairy farms located alongside this river. These dairy farms have been there for 75, 100 years. You know, these have been in the family. A lot of these farms are 50 cows, 75 cows, probably 100 cows would be the largest one. So these are small family farms. They've been in their families for generations.
The problem is that the barns and the pastures and the barnyards were located next to the river, all along this river. That's just how they did things 75 years ago. And so what happened is that river got polluted from the manure running off, and the Sauk Lake, which is a beautiful lake, became overfertilized and it grew up with weeds and so forth. And you've seen that in the Chesapeake Bay and so forth.
Well, what we did is we went in there with EQIP money and moved these barnyards and moved these cattle out away from the river. We didn't build any huge structures or anything. We built some to try to dam up things and so forth.
But the point is that, even with the limitations that we had on that of the $300,000, we still had to--this was not a cheap thing to do on these farms, and these weren't big farms. So it took us 2, 3, 4 years to move each of these operations, and to move 100 of them, you know, took us, I don't know, 20, 25 years. But we have basically accomplished that, and we've cleaned up the river, cleaned up the lake.
And if you had this amendment, we'd never be able to get that done. We wouldn't have--$30,000 a year would not get us anywhere near what we needed to do to get that accomplished in that area. And that's just one example.
So the NRCS people and the FSA people that are involved in this, you know, they monitor these things. They're kind of prioritizing where they go. And you can see, when you look at the statistics, they've been focusing on the smaller projects. But there are times when you have to deal with things that have been put out there, not because of anybody doing anything with any ill intent, it's just what they did 100 years ago, and we're trying to clean it up.
So I would caution the Members to be careful about putting any limitations on these programs because a lot of times it can have a consequence that wasn't intended. So I oppose this amendment and would urge my colleagues to do the same.
Mr. WAXMAN. I support this amendment. We've seen natural disasters from droughts to heat waves to floods affecting farmers from coast to coast because of the climate change issue. We spend billions of dollars on crop insurance subsidies to cover the cost of these climate disasters.
This amendment expands and improves the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program to bring support to farmers to adjust to a changing climate. It adds climate mitigation as an eligible EQIP program expense. I think it makes sense, and I would urge my colleagues to support it.