2001 Scorecard Vote
Farming and ranching operations occupy more than half the land in the 48 contiguous United States. Conserving this land is vital to keeping our water clean, preserving our open spaces, maintaining local sources of food, and protecting wildlife habitat. To advance these efforts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture administers several conservation incentive programs that encourage agricultural producers to voluntarily preserve their natural resources. While these programs are popular with landowners, most farmers and ranchers who seek to enroll in them are turned away due to lack of funding.
That funding threatened to vanish altogether when the Bush administration, in its proposed Fiscal Year 2002 budget, eliminated all funding for three popular agricultural conservation programs:
- the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), which encourages landowners to preserve wetlands by establishing long-term conservation easements or entering into cost-sharing agreements to restore wetlands;
- the Farmland Protection Program (FPP), which helps government officials purchase development rights to prevent productive farmland from succumbing to sprawl; and
- the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP), which encourages landowners to create wildlife habitat on their properties.
In part to prevent the elimination of these programs in Fiscal Year 2002, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) drafted a bill, S. 1246, that included specific earmarks for each program. The bill would have set aside $200 million for WRP, $40 million for FPP, and $7 million for WHIP from agriculture reserve funds.
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the Harkin bill, but on the Senate floor, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) offered a substitute amendment that would have eliminated all FY 2002 funding for the three conservation programs. In order to preserve the conservation funding, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) offered a motion to table (or kill) the Lugar substitute amendment. On July 31, 2001, the Senate voted 52 to 48 to reject the Lugar amendment (Senate roll call vote 261). YES is the pro-environment vote.
After that vote, the Harkin bill was subjected to a filibuster and the bill's supporters failed to get enough votes to end the filibuster and bring the bill to vote. The Senate subsequently passed a version of the bill that provided no funding for the three conservation programs in Fiscal Year 2002.