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Conservation Pitfalls Stressed at Senate Ag Farm Bill Hearing

Conservation spending was in sharp focus at a Senate Ag hearing as lawmakers start to deal with program shortcomings in the next farm bill.

Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow says the Inflation Reduction Act will help cut backlogs in EQIP, RCPP and other programs. “Right now, many of our conservation programs are oversubscribed, some as many as three-to-one.”

But Ranking Republican John Boozman complained to USDA witnesses, accountability is lacking; “Legislation’s provided billions of dollars to USDA, yet we have no information on how the department is obligating the funding.”

Another flashpoint—USDA’s emphasis on climate change. NRCS Chief Terry Cosby responded saying; “The Inflation Reduction Act represented a historic, once-in-a-generation opportunity to address climate change.”

Boozman feared a singular focus would hurt his farmers; “These ruins the ability of many producers in Arkansas to implement conservation practices on their land, related to nutrient and water management, because that legislation only focuses on climate.”

Other concerns—tying crop insurance supports to Washington-directed conservation practices, and keeping programs voluntary, incentive-based and locally-led, avoiding a “one-size-fits-all” approach.

On a separate front, ethanol industry groups praised and slammed an EPA proposal to allow year-round sales of E15, but in 2024, not this year as some seven Midwest governors requested. The Renewable Fuels Association charged, the White House under pressure from ‘big oil,’ “ignored a statutory deadline, sat on the request for months, and slow-rolled governors who acted in good faith.

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