Today, Rep. Glenn 'GT' Thompson, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Energy, and Forestry, held a hearing to learn from members of the agriculture community on how conservation programs should be structured in the 2012 Farm Bill. Conservation programs protect soil, water, wildlife, and other natural resources on agricultural land.
Witnesses testified to the importance of conservation programs to assist producers and landowners with voluntary conservation initiatives, while also acknowledging the difficult budget circumstances for reauthorizing Farm Bill programs. Currently, there are more than 20 conservation programs and subprograms that are administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the Farm Service Agency (FSA). Some of the larger programs include: Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Witnesses explained that streamlining programs could achieve dual goals of making them more effective and efficient while also providing savings for deficit reduction, but cautioned that heavy funding cuts could undermine critical program functions.
"We heard from a variety of witnesses today who offered their viewpoints on how we should draft the next conservation title. Given the fiscal challenges we face, we know we will have to reduce conservation spending while improving the efficiency of program delivery. Today's panel provided us with important feedback on how we can achieve these goals while keeping our farms profitable and ensuring a better return on investment for both our nation's producers and the America taxpayer," said Subcommittee Chairman Glenn 'GT' Thompson (R-PA).
"Conservation programs play an important role in preserving our natural resources and provide producers with the necessary tools to meet regulatory requirements. In this budget environment, it is especially important to ensure that current conservation programs are operating as efficiently as possible," said Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN).