House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Abigail D. Spanberger delivered the following statement at today’s Conservation, Research, and Biotechnology Subcommittee hearing “For the purpose of receiving testimony from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency.”
[As prepared for delivery]
Thank you, Chairman Baird. I appreciate the opportunity today to hear from these two witnesses about USDA’s conservation work. And thank you for being here today, Chief Cosby and Administrator Ducheneaux.
Last month, I convened a Farm Bill Summit in my district to hear directly from Virginia crop and livestock producers, farm groups, and conservation organizations about their priorities as we work to craft and advance the Farm Bill. We had over 100 folks in attendance and heard from a wide range of commodities and perspectives. I would like to thank Administrator Ducheneaux for attending, sharing about FSA’s important work, and listening to Virginia farmers’ questions and feedback firsthand.
Throughout the day, farmers shared the value of NRCS conservation programs to their operations. Farmers explained that these programs are critical for their ability to fund and start conservation projects on their land and receive payments for protecting land, among other benefits of these programs. Farmers also shared some of the challenges they experienced in enrolling in these programs. One Virginia farmer shared that he spent over a year waiting to enroll in EQIP, due to the program being oversubscribed, and a shortage of Technical Service Providers in the area resulting in a long wait to get a TSP to come out to his operation and develop the plan he needed to enroll.
In the last year, we’ve made historic investments in meeting producers’ demand for these programs through additional funding. This is an important step to make sure the funds are there for farmers who want to enroll in these voluntary conservation programs. Now, we need to focus on making it easier for farmers to enroll in these programs.
Among the opportunities to strengthen these programs, is the bipartisan bill I co-lead with Chairman Baird, the Increased TSP Access Act, which will help boost the number of TSPs to provide assistance to America’s farmers and ranchers. I want to thank Chairman Baird for his leadership and partnership on this legislation, and I look forward to other opportunities where this Subcommittee can strengthen NRCS conservation programs on a bipartisan basis. In closing, I look forward to learning more about NRCS and FSA’s work, what you are hearing from farmers, and how the Farm Bill can help support your important missions and move conservation forward. These programs are very popular across all regions and commodities, so we must continue to work with partners and leverage resources to help farmers, ranchers, and foresters continue their work as the original conservationists. I yield back.