White House blocks 'green' farm payments-senators


Fri Jan 27, 2006 04:11 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House budget office is preventing the government from enrolling farmers in a program that pays them to be good stewards of their land, the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee said on Friday.

In a letter, the leaders said "unnecessary, bureaucratic" delays will frustrate farmers and ranchers while making it harder for Congress to assess the value of the Conservation Security Program (CSP).

The letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns urged that enrollment be held during winter, when farmers plan their operations for the growing season. It was signed by chairman Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican, and Tom Harkin of Iowa, the Democratic leader on the panel.

They said an Agriculture Department agency "is ready to begin enrollment but is being prohibited by the Office of Management and Budget from doing so."

It was the second letter to Johanns this month to urge a timely enrollment for CSP, created in 2002 and given $259 million for fiscal 2006.

On January 10, eight farm and conservation groups told Johanns, "It is critical to the ultimate success of the program for enrollment to be open during the winter months when many farmers and ranchers have more time to work through the planning process."

Signing that letter were the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, National Farmers Union, Soil and Water Conservation Society, and Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.