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BUDGET REQUEST FOR 1982 Mr. BERG. We are pleased to appear before your subcommittee to discuss our 1982 budget estimate as amended on March 10, 1981.
We do sincerely thank you for your continued and deep concern for the farmer, rancher, forester and American agriculture. You and your Committee through your understanding of the need to conserve, develop and improve the nation's soil and water resources has led to Congress authorizing about thirty soil and water conservation programs, and watershed programs, in the past four decades.
These include all the programs my agency administers plus the programs for research, extension and financial assistance. All these programs are designed to help the land and water users invest their resources for public benefit.
With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to insert my full statement into the record. In the interest of time, I will abbreviate the presentation.
Mr. WHITTEN. Your full statement will be inserted into the record.
[The statement appears on pages 714 through 730. The Explanatory Notes appear on pages 731 through 863.]
RESOURCES CONSERVATION ACT APPRAISAL Mr. BERG. The extensive appraisal that we have made pursuant to the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977, which we call RCA, has identified the major soil, water and related resource problems facing our country.
This appraisal provides compelling evidence that these problems will worsen as further demands are placed on our land and water resources due to the projected needs for food and fiber for both domestic consumption and an increasing export market.
We have completed all of the technical inputs into this RCA process as called for in the Act and have furnished all of the information developed to the Office of the Secretary for their review.
Mr. Crowell is being briefed on all of the work we have been doing to date.
The 1982 RCA program has not yet been formulated. The fiscal year budget that we have before us is not based on any specific RCA program recommendations.
I think we have done a reasonably good job for the first time in history of identifying the types of problems that we really face in a comprehensive way and from this setting the desired objectives as to what the country should do in concert with state and local governments and the land users of this country.
Establishing the procedures and programs for achieving objectives and implementing those procedures and programs is by far the more difficult part of the job ahead. The new Administration will be moving in that direction when they have all of the data at hand.
Meanwhile this budget will permit the Soil Conservation Service to carry out its broad responsibilities for our nation's soil and
water conservation programs at about the current level for most activities.
IMPACT OF INFLATION ON SCS PROGRAMS The revised budget that we have before us today for consideration is a conservative one. It responds to the current economic situation and the need to exercise fiscal restraint in federal spending.
* Inflation that we have all been concerned about is not only a major problem for you and me as consumers, but it is the number one enemy of a program such as we administer.
Funding for the Soil Conservation Service programs is a good example. We have had increases of about 68 percent in actual appropriations over the past ten years, but our purchasing power has actually declined by about 17 percent. That will be through this fiscal year.
We are concerned about the double digit inflation of recent years and how we can get more buying power for the federal program dollar.
BUDGET PROPOSALS FOR 1982 The total 1982 budget proposed for the Soil Conservation Service is $552,539,000. Compared to the current estimate for 1981, it includes program decreases of $55,374,000 and increases of $19,556,000 primarily to fund increased operating and pay costs, for a net decrease of $35,818,000.
Both the fiscal 1981 and 1982 estimates have incorporated into them a series of reductions reflecting the current Administration's efforts to reduce federal travel, procurement, use of consulting services and employment levels. Total reductions of $6.3 million in fiscal year 1981 and $2.7 million in fiscal 1982 have been made to reflect these savings.
CONSERVATION TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE Our conservation operations activity has been the one we have built on. That proposal includes $317,639,000 and this is a net increase of $6,730,000 from fiscal year 1981. We fund six activities under this appropriation including conservation technical assistance.
The budget proposes $236,925,000 for conservation technical assistance. This is $3,844,000 more than fiscal year 1981. This is the net result of a $7.1 million increase primarily to defray increased operating costs and pay costs, and a program decrease of $3.3 million.
In 1982 we will continue to focus our attention and resources on major conservation needs throughout the country. We will use $6.7 million of these funds to accelerate the treatment of serious conservation problems in the West Tennessee region which includes parts of Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky, the Southern Piedmont areas of Alabama and Georgia, the Palouse areas of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and the most erosion prone areas of Missouri a owa.
We will also provide additional assistance to some of the irrigated water short areas of the western states.
In fiscal 1982 the Service will help about 873,000 land users apply conservation practices to adequately protect about 37 million acres of land.
Many land users are making significant contributions to conserving soil, water, energy and wildlife. State and local governments and the private sector are making significant investments in labor and money to conserve and protect our natural resources. This nonfederal investment totaled nearly $256 million in the past calendar year.
and me private sectory and wildlinificant contrib,
INVENTORY AND MONITORING For inventory and monitoring we propose $17,762,000. This is an increase of $699,000 from fiscal year 1981 to be used for increased operating and pay costs.
We will continue the inventory of the status and condition of the nation's soil, water and related resources as required by the Congress in the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act of 1977.
SOIL SURVEYS The budget proposes $49,888,000 for soil surveys. This is an increase of $1,454,000 to offset the growing costs of conducting soil surveys and publishing the results.
At the end of last fiscal year, soil surveys had been completed on about 1.5 billion acres, 67 percent of the land in the nation. For 1982 we need to maintain the current rate of progress in soil mapping through combined federal, state and local efforts to meet the urgent and growing needs for basic soil information.
SNOW SURVEY AND WATER FORECASTING The budget for snow survey and water supply forecasting is proposed at $3,633,000 and that is $82,000 more than for fiscal year 1981.
Current data from this activity now indicates that the 1981 crop growing season will be characterized by potentially serious water and soil-moisture shortages in many parts of the country unless there is significant relief by late winter and spring snows and rains.
The optimistic factor is that the reservoirs are pretty well filled up, but if we do not have reservoir capacity in an area, then the snow melt and water runoff is going to be low based on our present estimates.
If we have two back-to-back seasons of low snow and water yield, it will be even more serious a year hence.
We have automated this system and call it SNOTEL. We plan to provide our 1982 users with the same number of forecasts as provided in 1981.
PLANT MATERIALS CENTERS
The budget proposes $3,604,000 for operating our twenty plant material centers, an increase of $459,000 from fiscal 1981. Of this increase, $59,000 is to cover the increased costs of testing, selecting and releasing plant species for commercial production and $400,000 is to replace unserviceable equipment and to repair facilities.
In the table we have made available summarizing the budget proposals for all of our appropriations, it shows that this is the one area that has a program increase.
RESOURCE APPRAISAL AND PROGRAM DEVELOPMENT For resource appraisal and program development, the budget proposes $5,797,000. This is $192,000 more than fiscal 1981 and we would use the increase to offset increased operating costs related to the process.
RIVER BASIN SURVEYS AND INVESTIGATIONS The second appropriation item is river basin surveys and investigations. The budget proposes an appropriation of $16,165,000. This is a decrease of $2,158,000 from fiscal 1981. This will support a reduced level for USDA cooperative studies and in interagency coordination and program formulation activities.
The budget proposes to reduce the rate of completion of salinity studies in the Colorado River Basin because studies are significantly ahead of project implementation.
WATERSHED PLANNING The budget for watershed planning includes $6,690,000. This is a net program decrease of $4,123,000 from fiscal year 1981. No new planning starts are proposed for 1982.
WATERSHED AND FLOOD PREVENTION OPERATIONS The budget proposes a total appropriation of $162,045,000 for watershed and flood prevention operations. This is a net decrease of $30,479,000 from fiscal year 1981. We fund three activities under this appropriation.
For flood prevention operations authorized by Public Law 534, the budget proposes $18,434,000 for the eleven authorized flood prevention projects. This is a net decrease of $5,066,000 from fiscal year 1981 and this will support a generally reduced level of program activity for this coming fiscal year.
We are also at the point where we need to plan the future direction of this program. Congress has requested a review of all flood prevention projects and that is underway to determine how best to finish the remaining workload.
The budget proposes $10 million for emergency watershed protection operations which is the same funding level as in fiscal year 1981.
The budget proposes $133,611,000 for Public Law 566 small watershed projects. This is a net decrease of $25,413,000 from fiscal year 1981. It will support a generally reduced level of program activity that would allow us to complete about twenty projects in 1982.
No new construction starts are proposed for the coming fiscal year
We are continuing to emphasize accelerated conservation land treatment in approved watersheds. This provides for more conservation land treatment in the tributary areas above dams and is a very significant portion of our watershed protection and flood prevention operations.
GREAT PLAINS CONSERVATION PROGRAM The budget proposes an appropriation of $22,288,000 for the Great Plains Conservation Program. This is an increase of $1,624,000 from fiscal 1981. The added funds will cover increased operating and construction costs for conservation practices installed under the Great Plains contracts.
For many years the Great Plains region has been plagued with drought and severe wind erosion problems, most recently last year, and the evidence at hand is not encouraging for this coming spring season. To help solve these problems, we would plan to fund about 1,000 new contracts covering 3 million additional acres in the coming fiscal year.
Since 1956 with the inception of this program, farmers and ranchers have received about $232 million in cost-share payments. Your Committee has been instrumental in supporting that appropriation. A total of 110 million acres have been protected through 58,000 cost-share contracts in these Plains States. We anticipate that about 5,000 applications will await contracts as of the end of 1982 and there are more people waiting for help.
Public Law 96-263 enacted in 1980 extended this program to September 30, 1991.
RESOURCE CONSERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT The budget proposes an appropriation of $26,812,000 for the resource conservation and development program which is $7,234,000 less than in 1981. This is commonly called the RC&D program.
We have 194 authorized RC&D areas. USDA through the SCS provides planning and coordination assistance to local sponsors and they in turn obtain the needed improvements they feel will help their local community.
The 1982 budget requests no new RC&D area authorizations and proposes to complete the program phaseout by the end of fiscal 1982. Emphasis will be placed on completing those measures on which work is already underway.
We will provide coordination and major planning assistance in 1981 in full accordance with the congressional direction including the four new areas authorized by the 1981 Appropriation Act.
LONG-TERM IMPACT OF CONSERVATION WORK In summary, Mr. Chairman, the work performed under the Soil and Water Resources Conservation Act has helped the Department of Agriculture including my agency and the states, and this is important, to examine conservation work accomplished over the past 45 years.
We found that controlling erosion, maintaining soil productivity, retaining prime farmlands, reducing upstream flood damage, improving water quality and conservation and conserving energy are