The U.S. government is running short on funds to promote conservation on privately owned farmlands. Last year, the U.S. Agriculture Department had to turn away almost 80 percent of applicants to one program — more than 59,000 farmers — because money to pay them was not available. The program helps farmers convert to environmentally friendly practices, such as no-till farming and runoff containment. Congress last year rejected former President Clinton’s request to significantly increase funding for the program, and the Bush administration isn’t expected to push for a big increase. Other USDA conservation programs are facing similar problems. A program to help farmers develop wildlife habitat has been out of money since 1999 and the federal program to buy development rights from farmers isn’t close to keeping up with demand.

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