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Chair Abigail Spanberger Opening Statement at Hearing “A 2022 Review of Farm Bill Conservation Programs”

WASHINGTON House Agriculture Subcommittee Chair Abigail Spanberger delivered the following statement at today's hearing “A 2022 Review of Farm Bill Conservation Programs”.

[As prepared for delivery]

Good morning — and welcome to today’s hearing to update members on the status and operation of NRCS and FSA conservation programs.

We are here today to examine how America’s voluntary conservation programs are working for producers, how investments in USDA’s conservation programs are addressing our resource needs, and how these programs can be utilized to help address the climate crisis. This hearing presents an early opportunity for us to discuss what is working and what can work better as we look ahead to the 2023 Farm Bill.

I would like to welcome both Chief Cosby and Administrator Ducheneaux to the Subcommittee today. I know Subcommittee Members on both sides of the aisle are looking forward to hearing your updates as to how the programs that you oversee are working for farmers, ranchers, and foresters across the nation.

Your agencies have been hard at work. Administrator Ducheneaux, I would like to first mention the work you are doing to get folks enrolled in CRP through a new sign-up and expand CREP by enabling negotiation of matching funds. And Chief Cosby, I know that January has been a big month for NRCS, and I commend all that you are doing to expand access to conservation across the country. Your announcement of 118 new Equity Conservation Cooperative Agreements shows a commitment to bringing the benefits of conservation to historically underserved communities.

In addition, I am especially excited about the work NRCS is doing to expand available resources for farmers embracing climate-smart agriculture. Farmers are the original conservationists, and there is so much we can learn from our growers and producers on how to combat the climate crisis. This is why I am the proud sponsor of the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act. Our legislation is supported by nearly every major American farm group, as well as many major environmental groups and Fortune 500 companies. In a time when bipartisanship is hard-earned, this bill stands as a testament to how we can work together for our constituents, if only we are willing to come to the table in good faith and set partisanship aside. This legislation passed the Senate last year on a vote of 92-8, and it is long past time that the House follow suit and do the right thing for our farmers, rural America, and our planet.

Today, I am thrilled that USDA is already taking bold steps to bring farmers to the table on climate-smart agriculture. NRCS’ recent announcement that EQIP Conservation Incentive Contracts will be available nationwide and that the USDA will be launching a new, streamlined EQIP cover crop program, demonstrates the agency’s commitment to making it easier for farmers to work to address climate concerns while benefiting their bottom-lines. In addition, your update to CSP that allows producers to immediately re-enroll the following year is a great step toward making it easier for producers to participate. Finally, the $225 million investment in RCPP will enable more investments that leverage partner dollars and participation.

All of these programs deliver on the ground resources that help us mitigate and adapt to climate change.

I am eager to hear more about these changes and your plans for the future.

With that, I look to the Ranking Member, Mr. LaMalfa of California, for his comments.

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