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'Room for Mischief' in
EQIP Livestock Limits

By allowing states to raise the ceiling on definition of large operations, USDA sides with 'the greedy, not the needy.'

5/20/97: The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture today responded to USDA'S announcement of a final herd size limit for the new Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Loni Kemp, co-chair of the Campaign, said, "The final rule is a marked improvement over the disastrous draft rule, but it still leaves way too much room for mischief."

Kemp went on to say, "I'm pleased that USDA did as the Campaign urged and set a national ceiling that would prohibit large livestock operations, ones with over 1,000 animal units as set by the Clean Water Act, from getting EQIP funding. A national limit is the only way to insure the program works as intended -- to help small and moderate sized family farmers solve environmental problems on their farm -- and does not become a subsidy for large corporate livestock operations.

"But I'm disappointed that USDA provided a procedure for the waiving of the national ceiling," Kemp continued. "I hope that the waiver provision does not become a backdoor way for large corporate operations to siphon off EQIP funds.

"If waivers become routine the national ceiling will become meaningless," Kemp added. "USDA completely ignored our recommendations to close EQIP payment limitation loopholes. The final rule allows $50,000 subsidy payments to each farm 'tract,' places no limit on the number of corporate entities that can receive payments on the same farm, and allows payments to absentee investors in Beverly Hills, Wall Street and Hong Kong.

"With no effective payment limit, USDA has sided with the greedy, not the needy," Kemp observed.

Under the final rule, a state conservationist in consultation with their state technical committee would recommend a modification of the national ceiling. This modification would have to be approved by the head of the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

The draft rule issued in October 1996 set no national limits leaving the decision completely up to the states. The 1996 Farm Bill prohibits providing EQIP funds to large confined livestock operations, but it did not provide a specific definition of a large operation.

"I urge the states to consider limits that are lower than the national ceiling, where appropriate," Kemp concluded.

The National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture is a network of over 500 groups working to strengthen family farms, protect the environment and foster a sustainable food and agriculture system.

Source: From a news release by the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, NY 12566. Phone: (914) 744-8448. Fax: (914) 744-8477. email: Campaign@magiccarpet.com

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