House Ag Starts Pre-Farm Bill Oversight Hearings

Congress has started pre-farm bill oversight hearings to see what’s working and what’s not in the last farm bill before starting formal efforts on the next farm bill. Farm state lawmakers say popular programs like CRP, CSP, EQIP, RCCP, and others are working but need more money and technical support, especially in combating climate change.

FSA chief Zach Ducheneaux claimed early success before the House Ag Conservation panel.

“Specifically, we adjusted soil rental rates, data-supported such an adjustment, increased payments for practice incentives, increased payments for water quality practices. We also added the climate-smart practice incentive for CRP general and continuous signups to better leverage this program toward climate outcomes, including carbon sequestration.”

All resulting in a better sign-up. “The total sign-up of 5.3 million acres surpassed USDA’s four million-acre goal and reversed a trend of decreasing enrollment. And we’re especially happy with our enrollment for the grasslands program—2.6 million acres.”

Separately, the House Ag Livestock and Foreign Ag panel heard from cattle, dairy, poultry, and restaurant interests on sustainability in a pandemic world with a soaring population. California dairyman and National Milk Producers Federation board member Melvin Medeiros urged better tailoring of conservation programs and technology tax breaks.

“Dairy farmers see great advantage in adapting anaerobic digesters and to reduce emissions but lack a sustainable market for this energy produced on-farm and has limited their economic viability. Similar, new animal feed additives significantly reduce enteric emissions, but current U.S. policy hinders timely approval and puts farmers at a competitive disadvantage.”

Still, Medeiros says a gallon of milk in 2017 used 30 percent less water, 21 percent less land, had a 19 percent smaller carbon footprint, and produced 20 percent less manure than in 2007.

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