President Bush proposed a record $3.9 billion, an increase of $582 million over last year, for conservation programs to strengthen environmental stewardship on the nation's farmlands.

"This Administration has worked hard to ensure strong environmental programs are available to our nation's farmers and ranchers," says USDA Secretary Ann Veneman. "Farmers and ranchers are the best stewards of the land and we will continue to ensure these programs are administered effectively and in the best interest of producers and the environment."

Nearly $3.5 billion of the president's proposal will be used for financial assistance or other direct payments to farmers, including the following:

  • $2 billion for the Conservation Reserve Program for rental and other costs on new and old acreage, an increase of approximately $140 million;
  • $850 million will be provided for the EQIP program, a $255 million increase;
  • $250 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program to enroll an additional  178,000 acres;
  • $112 million for the Farmland Protection Program, an increase of $27 million; 
  • $85 million for the Grassland Reserve Program, a $13 million increase;
  • $42 million for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program, an increase of  $16 million;
  • $19 million for the new Conservation Security Program.

This budget ensures that all of the cost-share and technical assistance conservation work authorized by the 2002 farm bill for FY 2004 will be delivered. 

USDA will use an additional $432 million, through a new Farm Bill Technical Assistance account, to ensure farmers and ranchers can access the technical work necessary to fully utilize the conservation programs' financial assistance.