Kuster Reintroduces Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Access to Farm Conservation Programs
(Washington, DC) – Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, co-sponsored by Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR), which would improve access to voluntary farm conservation programs administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Kuster’s bill, H.R. 1163 the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act, would reform current law that inadvertently hampers the ability of many small famers to participate in programs with cost-share payments. Cost-share payments help farmers afford the cost of implementing conservation measures.
Under current law, small farmers who are registered as business entities are unfairly caught up in an annual federal reporting regulation that is time consuming, difficult to navigate, and costly with which to comply. This requirement discourages farmers from participating in conservation programs administered by NRCS. The Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act would remove this burdensome regulation for NRCS cost share recipients, ensuring that small farmers are not treated unfairly by this burdensome annual reporting regulation.
“New Hampshire’s identity is deeply rooted in our state’s beautiful open spaces and our rich tradition of agriculture,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “If we can encourage farmers to protect their farm land in a way that keeps them competitive and in business, that’s a win-win for farmers and our state. It’s commonsense that small family farms shouldn’t be subjected to the same reporting regulations as large Federal contractors, and this legislation will cut red tape for New Hampshire farmers who want to access important voluntary conservation programs.”
“If we want more producers to engage in conservation efforts, we’ve got to make sure that it makes financial sense for them to do so,” Congressman Crawford said. “While well-intentioned, we’ve learned that the DUNS/SAM reporting requirements pose an unnecessary burden on producers and made it much harder for farmers to participate in conservation programs. Our bill will remove these requirements so that our farmers can focus on implementing conservations strategies, instead of having to worry about complying with costly regulatory mandates.”
Across the country, thousands of farmers and ranchers voluntarily participate in the wide range of conservation programs that are offered through NRCS. NRCS is an agency within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provides technical and financial assistance to farmers as a means of improving conservation practices on farms in all 50 states and territories. Programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) focus on planning and implementing conservation measures that improve soil, water and plant quality on agricultural land. EQIP can also help producers meet Federal, State and local environmental regulations.
Many of NRCS’ programs offer a cost-share payment which helps farmers with the cost of implementing these conservation measures. Kuster’s Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act would cut administrative red tape and lift a burdensome regulation that acts as a barrier to entry for NRCS contracts.
A member of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, Kuster has long fought for federal measures that support small, family farms like those located throughout New Hampshire.