Ernst, Grassley Urge USDA to Help Farmers Achieve Water Quality Objectives

The Iowa senators are calling on the agency to adopt changes as they implement the conservation programs passed in the 2018 Farm Bill.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, and her fellow Iowan Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), joined their colleagues on both sides of the aisle to urge U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make several changes to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to maximize the program’s ability to enhance both soil health and water quality.
 
“Our farmers are the first conservationists, and it’s critical that they are able to utilize conservation programs to keep workable land in production while enhancing water quality downstream,” said Senator Ernst. “I worked across the aisle to strengthen conservation programs in the most recent Farm Bill, and now USDA needs to make sure they’re utilizing the program to its full potential, and that includes adopting modifications to ensure farmers and landowners can achieve their conservation and water quality objectives.”   
 
“I applaud Senator Ernst’s leadership and determination to ensure Iowans can make the most of the USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program. The changes we’re seeking will help farmers increase soil health and enhance Iowa’s water quality for generations to come. I look forward to continued communication with USDA as it implements the conservation title of the 2018 Farm Bill,” said Senator Grassley.
 
Ernst – who worked hard to strengthen conservation programs in the 2018 Farm Bill – helped to authorize a number of key modifications to the Continuous CRP (CCRP) in order to incentivize the adoption of practices to protect and enhance water quality. Ernst, Grassley, and a bipartisan group of senators, are now requesting that the USDA utilize their authority under the 2018 Farm Bill to adopt the following changes as they move forward with implementing the CCRP:
  • Increase the payment rate for Practice Incentive Payments to 50 percent to encourage the adoption of critical water quality practices 
  • Actively promote the Clean Lakes Estuaries and Rivers Initiative within CCRP to help farmers prioritize practices that improve water quality
  • Allow changes to the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) to be adopted without amending existing agreements
  
Background:
As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Ernst worked across the aisle to secure key conservation provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill, including the bipartisan Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act of 2018 that will revise and strengthen the current provisions of the CRP, refocus conservation spending on marginal cropland to benefit soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat, and ensure greater farmland access for beginning young farmers and ranchers.
 
The 2018 Farm Bill also included Ernst’s bipartisan Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act that will provide more resources for partners to expand the reach of conservation projects, while cutting red-tape and increasing flexibility to attract new participants.
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