Opening Statements

Opening Statement: Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Public Hearing: “Challenges and Successes of Conservation Programs in 2020”

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Washington, October 1, 2020 | comments
Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning and thank you Chair Spanberger for holding today’s hearing to review the successes and challenges of the conservation programs in 2020. In January of this year, our subcommittee heard from NRCS Chief Lohr and FSA Administrator Fordyce regarding the implementation of the conservation programs included in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Since that time, our country has been through an extended period of unprecedented times with the COVID-19 pandemic. While much of the country was shut down, our farmers and ranchers continued working to make sure Americans still had access to the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply in the world. NRCS field offices also continued working to serve their customers. Although there have been some restrictions, NRCS employees have adapted and continue to administer these critical conservation programs.

Almost two years ago, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill that protected mandatory funding in the conservation title; increased funding for EQIP, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and ACEP, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program; and provided a separate funding allocation for RCPP, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

The 2014 Farm Bill made significant reforms by consolidating over 20 conservation programs into 13, and the 2018 Farm Bill built upon these successes by streamlining program administration to provide for better delivery. These changes were designed to improve access to conservation programs all across the country, and I am proud of the results we have seen - specifically in my home state of California. For example, the California Rice Commission was recently awarded nearly $5.5 million in RCPP funding to maximize waterbird habitat on ricelands in California.

I would like to congratulate Kevin Norton on his role of Acting Chief of Natural Resources Conservation Service and welcome him here today. He has a long history of service with NRCS including as Louisiana State Conservationist, as a detailee to the Senate and House Ag Committees during the 2014 and 2018 Farm Bills, and most recently as Associate Chief of NRCS. Thank you for being here today.

I would also like to thank our second panel of witnesses for being here today. With the input and expertise of stakeholders like you, we have been able to improve conservation programs over the years so they work better for our farmers and ranchers.

I look forward to a productive discussion with both panels of witnesses to hear about the successes and challenges of conservation programs in 2020. Once again, thank you Chair Spanberger for convening this hearing today. With that, I yield back.
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