Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Public Hearing: “To Review USDA Farm Bill Conservation Programs”

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Washington, May 15, 2019 | comments

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, thank you Chair Spanberger for holding today’s hearing to review USDA Farm Bill conservation programs

Over the past 35 years, Congress has acknowledged that voluntary conservation works, leading to significant investments in various conservation initiatives. In recent farm bills, we have expanded our financial commitment for important initiatives like the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

We have also created new tools like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) that expands the use of on-farm conservation practices and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) that leverages federal funding with matching assistance from partners in the private sector. Over the past five years, RCPP has been successfully utilized in the Sacramento Valley as NRCS and other partners have worked with rice producers to create habitat for waterfowl

The 2018 Farm Bill also contained new approaches to funding and delivering conservation programs. The House Agriculture Committee worked hard to protect mandatory funding and to strengthen working lands and infrastructure programs.

Here are a few of the highlights: CSP was reformed to allow more flexibility in program delivery; EQIP funding was significantly increased and will reach over $2 billion per year by 2023, allowing for expanded authorities to address water savings and irrigation projects and to address drought in the West; Conservation Incentive Payments were established to allow for scalable adoption and maintenance of conservation practices—practices that will be tailored to address locally identified resource concerns; RCPP—which I previously mentioned—was provided its own funding allocation, allowing the program to operate on its own along with streamlined delivery for NRCS; The Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP)—which protects our farmland, grasslands, and wetlands—received a significant funding increase

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage cap was increased and meaningful reforms were implemented to prevent the program from competing against beginning farmers or other producers wanting access to land; finally, the 2018 Farm Bill made significant investments in infrastructure—including our watershed operations program—that will provide certainty to project sponsors across the country.

The funding and reforms made to these programs, along with the new authorities provided to address active management of our National Forests, make this the strongest farm bill ever for Western states as well.

While our focus today is on the conservation programs administered by USDA, the farm bill also did many great things to assist private forest owners as well as state and national forests. However, many needed authorities to streamline active management of national forests were left out. If we do not address the declining health of our largest carbon sink, many of our conservation gains will be wiped away with the destruction of watersheds and wildlife habitat along with the loss of personal property and life.

Again, thank you Chair Spanberger for calling today’s hearing. I look forward to working together with you this Congress. This subcommittee has a lot of important work ahead of it as we review implementation of the conservation and forestry authorities.

I would also like to thank our witnesses, Chief Lohr and Administrator Fordyce for joining us today. We know both of you are very busy with farm bill implementation, so thank you for making time to be with us today. We appreciate all you do for our producers. With that, I yield back.

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