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In First Hearing as Chair of Conservation & Forestry Subcommittee, Spanberger Focuses on Implementation of 2018 Farm Bill Conservation Programs

During a Hearing with NRCS Chief Lohr & FSA Administrator Fordyce, the Congresswoman Highlighted How Voluntary Conservation Programs Support Farmers & Protect Natural Resources

Washington, May 15, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger—Chair of the House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry—today led a hearing focused on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) implementation of 2018 Farm Bill conservation programs.

During her first hearing as Chair, Spanberger asked USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Matthew Lohr and USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) Administrator Richard Fordyce about the progress of 2018 Farm Bill implementation—particularly related to the timeline to implement changes to USDA’s conservation programs.

In her opening statement, she also highlighted the history of federal conservation programs and how sustainable agriculture practices can help address current challenges related to declining farm income, extreme weather, and climate change. Click here to watch the full hearing, and click here to watch Spanberger’s opening statement.

“Today, farmers are some of our country’s most prolific and effective conservationists—and I’ve seen that firsthand in Central Virginia. Through voluntary participation in USDA programs, hundreds of thousands of U.S. farmers and ranchers demonstrate how responsible stewardship can keep our rural economy strong while also protecting our clean air, water resources, and wildlife,” said Spanberger. “As Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, I’m committed to hearing directly from these growers about the real-world impacts of new or existing programs, especially as USDA begins implementing new provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill. Today’s hearing focused on starting this process, and I’d like to thank Chief Lohr and Administrator Fordyce for taking questions from our Subcommittee. I hope today’s discussion will help us pursue bipartisan policies that provide farmers with the technical and financial assistance they need to reduce soil erosion, improve their fields, and build sustainable operations for generations to come.”

Today’s Subcommittee hearing was focused on examining the current state of 2018 Farm Bill conservation program implementation. In her opening statement, Spanberger highlighted the need to accelerate conservation efforts on-the-ground through new authorities in the 2018 Farm Bill related to NRCS and FSA programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Programs (EQIP) and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). In her questions to the witnesses, she also addressed Farm Bill implementation timelines and making sure that new and existing programs are effective and accessible to farmers.

As Chair, Spanberger serves alongside Ranking Member U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA-1). During the hearing, she expressed her appreciation for Ranking Member LaMalfa’s partnership in advancing their shared priorities related to working lands, the rural economy, and forest management.

Spanberger was selected to serve as Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee in January. The Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee is responsible for legislation related to soil conservation, resource management, forestry, and water quality. In her role as Chair, Spanberger is working to advance priorities on the Subcommittee that are important to Central Virginia’s crop and livestock producers, including issues related to improving soil health and water quality—and she is also focused on examining how farmers can balance conservation programs with the practices they need to grow their businesses.

BACKGROUND

Since arriving in the U.S. House, Spanberger has worked to hear directly from Central Virginians about issues related to conservation agriculture. Last month, Spanberger met with Virginia environmental groups to hear their thoughts on how best to expand successful conservation practices, mitigate the impacts of climate change, and promote access to clean air and water across Central Virginia. And in March, she convened a group of Amelia County farmers and cattlemen to discuss challenges facing local producers, including burdensome federal regulations.

Spanberger is also a member of the House Agriculture Committee’s Commodity Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee. In this role, Spanberger focuses on agricultural markets, credit, rural electrification, and rural development issues—including expanding rural broadband access in Central Virginia and across rural America.

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