Opening Statement: Republican Leader Doug LaMalfa Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Hearing: "A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: Stakeholder Perspectives on Title II Conservation Programs"
Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Chairwoman Spanberger. I appreciate you holding this hearing and the opportunity to discuss the 2018 Farm Bill’s Conservation Title.
Title II conservation programs are voluntary and incentive-based, providing direct benefits to producers, their operations, and the land alike.
The delivery of the farm bill’s conservation programs is a proven model that we know works; and will continue to be important for the long-term success of our farmers, ranchers, growers, and rural areas nationwide.
Since the 1985 Farm Bill, conservation programs have continued to evolve to better support American agriculture, with some of the most significant reforms in just the past two reauthorizations.
This includes program consolidation and streamlining, which have improved the delivery of conservation programs, by making them simpler and easier for producers to navigate.
The Committee has worked hard to keep these programs producer-first, while protecting mandatory funding for essential programs.
As this Committee begins crafting the next conservation title, I am hopeful we can build on these reforms and maintain the emphasis and support for working lands programs and farm infrastructure.
Since the beginning of this Congress, there has been a lot of attention placed on environmental regulations, soil health and ways that farm conservation programs can help sequester more carbon. Through a variety of recent actions, significant new funding for so-called climate-smart activities and several main farm bill conservation programs has already been made available or will be soon.
Specifically, this includes the $3.5 billion climate-smart practices pilot program USDA is currently administering. This funding is being released unilaterally and comes with no mandate, direction or authorization from Congress on how to distribute it.
In addition, this new funding comes on top of the most recent reconciliation package passed last month, which provided roughly $20 billion for four conservation programs.
Since it’s not clear how this new funding will be obligated or specifically utilized by the Department, this Committee must conduct oversight as USDA administers this enormous amount of taxpayer dollars, and especially with a new farm bill on the horizon.
In light of this, the House Agriculture Committee must be mindful of this massive amount of funding before amending programs and making policy changes that would reorient conservation programs more towards climate mitigation.
Make no mistake, USDA conservation programs do provide numerous environmental benefits, including for soil health. However, no one natural resource concern should be prioritized over another considering all the benefits and good work these programs support.
Instead, Congress can’t lose focus and must maintain our support for the long-held purposes of Title II programs to meet our broad environmental and conservation goals, and the needs of producers.
I’d like to thank all of our witnesses for participating today. We look forward to your testimonies and a thorough conversation on Title II.
Madam Chair, I yield back.