Overview of President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request

On February 13, 2012, President Obama submitted a proposed federal budget for fiscal year (FY) 2013 to Congress.  This marks the beginning of the annual budget and appropriations process in Congress.  The following summarizes elements of the proposed budget that relate to League priorities across a range of issues, including agricultural conservation, clean water, fish and wildlife, land and water conservation, river restoration, and sustainable development.

AGRICULTURAL CONSERVATION

The sections below require a brief introduction due to the complex interplay between annual budget requests and Congressional appropriations and the multi-year funding authorized by the Farm Bill.   Farm Bills, including the last one enacted in 2008, authorize budgets for conservation and other programs for multiple years.  The 2008 Farm Bill significantly increased authorized funding for conservation programs.  The League strongly backed those increases and believes they should be honored in administration budget requests and by Congress in the annual appropriations process.  However, successive administrations and Congresses have cut Farm Bill conservation funding by more than $4.4 billion since 2002.  Unfortunately, the administration’s budget proposal continues that trend.

Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) reduces soil erosion, protects water quality, and enhances habitat through long-term contracts with landowners that convert highly-erodible cropland to more sustainable vegetative cover. The administration’s FY 2013 budget for CRP proposes a reduction in the Farm Bill authorized acreage limit from 32 million to 30 million.  It is encouraging to see the announcement of a general sign-up in FY 2012, but that does not alter the proposed cut to CRP’s mandatory authorization for FY 2013.

Green mallard ducks in wetlandsWetlands Reserve Program (WRP) – The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) provides technical and financial assistance to landowners to restore and protect wetlands on their properties. Wetlands are generally conserved through permanent or 30-year easements purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, the president takes no action to request new funding for WRP, which expires with the current Farm Bill authorization in FY 2012. The League is disappointed with the administration’s proposal for WRP and urges Congress to continue the decades-long commitment made to the goals of the program.

Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) – The Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) focuses on limiting conversion of pasture and other grasslands to cropland or development while allowing landowners to continue grazing and other operations that align with this goal.  In its budget, the administration would allow GRP funding to fall by more than 90 percent from this year.  The League strongly opposes this action and again urges Congress to restore funding in FY 2013.

Farmland in PA

Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is a comprehensive approach to conserving soil, water, and other natural resources across a range of lands, including cropland, prairie, and forests.  CSP makes conservation the basis for a producer to receive federal financial support rather than limitless subsidies for intensive production of a few crops.  It is troubling that the administration’s FY 2013 budget is proposing to cut mandatory funding for CSP by $68 million.  The League opposes this cut because CSP is a comprehensive, whole-farm approach to conservation that can maximize benefits to natural resources, fish and wildlife, and producers alike.

Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) – The Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) helps agricultural landowners develop habitat for upland and wetland wildlife and threatened and endangered species.  The president’s FY 2013 proposal also seeks to permanently reduce the mandatory commitment established for WHIP in the 2008 Farm Bill.  The budget would cut FY 2013 funding for WHIP by $12 million.  The League opposes this damaging cut to a program with the central goal of supporting wildlife resources in rural America.

CLEAN WATER

Wastewater pipes

Clean Water Infrastructure – The administration requests approximately $2 billion to upgrade and modernize waste water and drinking water treatment systems nationwide.  Outdated sewage treatment plants are major sources of water pollution and many public water supply systems require significant investment to improve treatment technology and replace deteriorating pipes.  The League supports this request. 

Great Lakes Restoration – The president requests $300 million to continue the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).  Between fiscal years 2009 and 2011, the administration has requested and Congress has appropriated more than $1 billion for the GLRI.  Funding supports efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Army Corps of Engineers, states, localities, and nonprofit groups to tackle some of the most pressing problems in the region, including contaminated sediment, invasive species, and habitat degradation and loss.  The League supports this request, especially when numerous studies estimate that $5 billion is required to restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.  

Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay Recovery – The budget requests more than $72 million, which is $15 million more than appropriated for FY 2012, for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay program.  The EPA explains that additional funding will help to implement the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), which was finalized in December 2010.  The TMDL establishes enforceable pollution limits for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment from point and non-point sources.  As pollution reduction and water quality goals continue to go unmet throughout the region, the League supports this request.

Non-point Source Pollution Control – The administration requests approximately $165 million for grants that support state efforts to control and reduce non-point source pollution.  Non-point source pollution, including run-off from lawns, fields, and parking lots, is the greatest threat to water quality nationwide.  Based on the seriousness of non-point source pollution, the League is concerned that EPA is requesting about $36 million less than Congress provided in 2011.

FrackingHydraulic Fracturing Research and Analysis – The administration’s budget would make significant new investments in fracturing-related research and analysis through the Department of Energy (DOE), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).  Hydraulic fracturing involves injecting large quantities of water along with chemicals, sand, and other materials under high pressure into rock formations to fracture the rock and release natural gas and other energy resources.  The process is expanding rapidly across the country, including in the Marcellus region of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.  However, the potential impacts on water and air quality, surface and groundwater resources, habitat, and fish and wildlife have not been adequately researched.

The proposed budget would augment research across a range of issues.  For example, the USGS requests approximately $18 million, which is $13 million more than its current budget, for fracturing-related research.  With this funding, USGS would prioritize research on water quality and supply, air quality, movement of methane gas during the drilling process, and the impacts of fracturing on landscapes, habitat, and other natural resources.  EPA is requesting approximately $14 million in FY 2013 for research in this area.  This will support an on-going EPA study assessing the impacts of fracturing on water resources throughout the “life cycle” of the process.  This analysis takes a more holistic approach to the evaluating the range of potential impacts.  The League supports these requests.      

FISH AND WILDLIFE

White-tailed deer - Park River NWR

National Wildlife Refuges – The budget requests about $495 million – approximately $9 million more than Congress provided in fiscal year 2012 – to operate and maintain 555 national wildlife refuges across the country.  National wildlife refuges conserve fish, wildlife, and their habitat, provide incredible opportunities for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation, and support local economic growth.  At the same time, refuges face serious budget challenges, including a $3.6 billion backlog of operations and maintenance projects.  The League strongly supports this request.

State and Tribal Wildlife Grants – The budget requests $61 million, which is equal to the amount appropriated by Congress for FY 2012, for State and Tribal Wildlife Grants.  These grants help states and tribes to conserve a broad array of wildlife, including non-game species, based on priorities they established in Wildlife Action Plans.  The League supports this request.

Open Fields – The budget requests $5 million for the Open Fields program within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Open Fields, which the League helped to include in the 2008 Farm Bill, provides funding to states with programs that support access to private lands for hunting and fishing.  The League supports this request.

Asian Carp Research and Control – Asian carp pose a serious and potentially devastating threat to the long-term health of the Great Lakes.  Asian carp have been steadily migrating north along the Mississippi River and could reach the Great Lakes through a system of canals that artificially connect the Mississippi River and Great Lakes basins.  As part of an on-going effort to address this serious problem, the administration is requesting funds across multiple agencies.  

Small silvers behind boatThe budget for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) requests a $3 million increase to accelerate research designed to detect, limit and control carp in the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes.  In the Upper Mississippi region, the research would focus on improving methods to detect Asian carp populations at low levels and identifying habitats most vulnerable to colonization.  In the Great Lakes, research would be directed toward developing methods for oral delivery of fish toxicants, identifying and developing chemical attractants to aid in targeted removal of carp, and testing seismic technology as a means of restricting the passage of carp through locks and other navigation infrastructure.  The budget explains the proposed increase would allow USGS to accelerate research “beyond the ‘proof of concept’ stage and focus on transferring technology to managers in the field.” 

The budget for the Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the navigation system along the Upper Mississippi River, includes $3 million to continue studying options for restoring the hydrologic separation between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins.  The Corps budget also includes $24.5 million to operate the carp barrier system in the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, which connects the Mississippi River (via the Illinois River) to Lake Michigan.  The League supports these requests as well as an accelerated timetable to complete the Corps separation study.   

LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION

Superior National Forest

The president requests $450 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is about $104 million more than Congress appropriated for the current fiscal year.  LWCF funds are allocated to the Department of the Interior and USDA Forest Service for land acquisition across national parks, forests, wildlife refuges, and other federal public lands, and to support outdoor recreation at the state and local levels.  A total of $270 million is requested for federal land acquisition.  Within this amount, Interior and the Forest Service propose to allocate approximately $108 million to acquire habitat in three high priority regions: the Northern Rockies; Florida-Georgia Longleaf pine ecosystem; and in a broad area aroundYellowstone National Park.  The agencies explain there are unique opportunities in these regions, working in partnership with state and local governments and nonprofit organizations, to acquire land in fee-title or protect it through conservation easements.

Within the total requested for federal land acquisition, as much as $7.5 million ($5 million for the USDA Forest Service and $2.5 million for the Bureau of Land Management within the Department of Interior) would be allocated to purchase land or easements that would specifically expand access to public lands for hunting, angling, and other outdoor recreation. The League and many other national hunting, angling, and conservation groups support legislation in Congress that would annually allocate 1.5 percent of LWCF appropriations to achieve the same purpose.  The League supports the total request for LWCF as well as the proposal to specifically allocate funds to augment public land access.

RIVER RESTORATION

Missouri
RiverMissouri River – The president requests $90 million for the Missouri River Recovery Program, which is about $18 million more than Congress appropriated for fiscal year 2012.  The proposed increase would help fund the Yellowstone Intake Project, which would build fish passage systems benefiting the pallid sturgeon and other fish on the Yellowstone River in Montana.  The Recovery Program, which the League actively supports through its Missouri River Initiative, focuses on habitat and other river restoration projects supporting recovery of the pallid sturgeon, interior least tern, and piping plover, which are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  These projects also produce great benefits for other fish and wildlife, which will increase recreational opportunities along the river.  The Recovery Program is making tangible progress on the ground; however, much more work needs to be done.  With this in mind, the League strongly supports the request.

Upper Mississippi River – For the Upper Mississippi River, the budget requests nearly $18 million for the Environmental Management Program (EMP), which is administered by the Army Corps of Engineers.  The EMP focuses exclusively on implementing and evaluating restoration projects.  As a leader in protecting the Upper Mississippi since the 1920s, the League supports this request and is working to significantly expand restoration throughout the region.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

In our interconnected environment, how natural resources are used, managed, and protected half-way around the world often impacts us here at home.  And rapid population growth in the world’s poorest countries is frequently one of the most significant threats to natural resources and the environment.  Growing families clearing forests to grow food contribute to deforestation and millions of fishermen with small boats and nets deplete fish that migrate worldwide.  Improved access to health care, family planning information, education, and economic development opportunities all contribute to smaller families.  The administration’s budget requests nearly $643 million for family planning, healthcare, and integrated development programs around the world.  The League supports this request.

 
 
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