Budget Negotiators Seeking Deal on Fiscal Deficit, Ignore Environmental Deficit

The White House is negotiating with the House and Senate leadership to develop a multi-year budget plan. This will include long-term spending plans for U.S. Department of Agriculture food, conservation, and energy programs. Many are concerned that natural resource conservation and environmental protection programs will bear a disproportionate share of the budget cuts – at a time when the nation’s natural resources are facing increasing pressure due to increasing demand for food, feed, fuel and fiber for a growing population and a changing climate. While significant progress has been made in recent decades through federal programs to conserve and restore soils, water and air quality, habitats, and ecosystem services, yawning environmental deficits remain, as evidenced by the massive dead zones along the nation’s shores and the mounting threats to agriculture and forestry due to the rapidly changing climate.

The massive budget cuts demanded by the House majority for FY 2011 and FY 2012 for environmental protection, natural resource conservation, and renewable energy and energy efficiency will only help reduce the fiscal deficit a small amount in the short term (because these programs represent such a small portion of the federal budget). But cutting these programs will make the environmental deficit much bigger – leaving a mounting bill for future generations to pay for the environmental degradation and depletion we cause today.

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) joined with the Forests in the Farm Bill Coalition in a letter to the negotiators in defense of the natural resources budget, raising the concern “that ongoing budget negotiations could result in top line cuts that, without even considering the merits of the nation’s key conservation programs, will result in devastating impacts for the future of America’s environment... All of these programs help keep our citizens on working farms, ranches, and forests that produce agriculture and forest commodities while maintaining natural resources and environmental quality.”