WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman (R-AR) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act, bipartisan legislation to improve access to voluntary farm conservation programs administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The NRCS is an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical and financial assistance to farmers to improve conservation practices on their farms. However, annual federal reporting regulations required under this program have been burdensome on many small, mid-sized, beginning, and historically underserved farmers. Additionally, because this reporting system is done electronically and requires reliable internet access, farmers in rural areas with limited broadband access are even further disadvantaged. This bill would remove this burdensome regulation for NRCS cost share recipients.
“Arkansans who work in the agriculture sector, the largest contributor to our state’s economy, play an important role in helping us live up to our nickname of the Natural State. Our farmers and ranchers understand this and are excellent stewards of the environment from which they earn their livelihood. Unfortunately, they are often boxed out of voluntary conservation programs to help accomplish this goal. We can help them protect our shared resources by removing the bureaucratic barriers that keep family farmers from participating in these programs,” Boozman said.
“Agricultural producers, and especially small and beginning farmers, should be given every opportunity to receive cost-share assistance to practice voluntary conservation on their farms. However, reporting requirements and regulations often make it harder for farmers and producers across Minnesota to access these programs,” said Klobuchar. “Our bipartisan bill would help cut through the government red tape that stands between small and beginning farmers and the conservation programs that will help protect their farmland and the environments within their communities.”
Thousands of farmers and ranchers voluntarily participate in the wide range of conservation programs that are offered through NRCS, with many of these programs offering a cost-share payment which helps farmers with the cost of implementing conservation measures. The Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act would remove burdensome regulations for NRCS cost share recipients, which currently puts small farmers on the same level as other entities receiving multi-million dollar government contracts, such as large military contractors.