WASHINGTON, D.C. – What kind of foods are grown, how they’re grown and the livelihood of farming is an area congressional members oversee in their massive Farm Bill.
In this piece of legislation, it includes conservation efforts to improve water, soil and habitat quality, as well as combating climate change. Congressional members are taking a closer look at those conservation efforts to see what’s working and what needs to be improved.
The Farm Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation for our agriculture industry touching everything from food production, nutrition programs and even conservation.
“Farmers are the original conservationists and there is so much we can learn from our growers and producers on how we can combat the climate crisis,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D- VA).
In a House agriculture subcommittee, the USDA touted that they’re seeing progress with one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the U.S. known as the Conservation Reserve Program. The CRP pays farmers to set aside land from AG production to boost water or soil quality, prevent runoff and improve wildlife habitats. They told members they’re finally seeing enrollment in that program pickup.
“Specifically we adjusted soil rental rates where data supported such an adjustment, increased payment for practice incentives, increased payments for water quality practices,” said Zach Ducheneaux with USDA’s Farm Service Agency. “Our changes to CRP have already begun to pay off, last year producers and landowners enrolled in 5. 3 million acres through sign ups turning the tide on enrollment in the previous four years.”
Representative Glenn Thompson (R- PA) calls America’s farmers and ranchers “climate heroes” for helping sequester over six gigatons of carbon annually.
“I’ve long appreciated benefits that locally led, incentive-based voluntary conservation programs provide for both the environment agriculture producers, the economy, as an effective tool for de-listing endangered species and climate all great outcomes as a result of these conservation programs we’ve codified over the years,” said Thompson.
But Thompson worries the money set aside for current federal programs is tough to get out the door. But the USDA says otherwise.
“We deliver and no matter what the program is and we’ve seen no let down from anything,” said Terry Cosby with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.
Congress is slated to pass a new farm bill in 2023.