Watershed conservation groups in Wichita made their pitch Wednesday for more money from the federal farm bill.
But for two Kansas congressmen, conservation falls a bit lower on the wishlist.
Millions of dollars funneled through the farm bill have helped pay for programs that protect reservoirs in Kansas. One of the more popular programs is known as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, or EQIP. It’s administered by the National Resources Conservation Unit. Last year, the program had a total budget of $31.5 million.
Some of those funds have gone to projects proposed by ranchers and farmers living in the Cheney Reservoir watershed. The reservoir provides 80 percent of the water for the city of Wichita and the surrounding farmland.
Jim French, a senior advocacy adviser for the Center for Rural Affairs, said it’s important to get program success stories in front of congressmen like U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, who represents the Wichita area, as they ponder the farm bill.
“He has about a half a million constituents that drink that water,” French said.
Rep. Roger Marshall, whose sprawling district covers western Kansas, told the conservation groups that he wants to focus the limited funds in the farm spending bill on crop insurance first.
“Conservation would be number three and, of course, nutrition is important,” Marshall said. “So, it’s kind of like asking me to pick which is my favorite child and I’ve got four kids and they’re all my favorite.”
Estes said budget decisions should be based on which programs provide the best value.
“We need to come back and re-look at which ones are successful and which ones have maybe outlived their usefulness,” he said.
The congressmen expect to get the bill for the first time next week. It should be made public a week after that.
Brian Grimmett reports on the environment and energy for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.