Representative Abigail Spanberger, D-Henrico, announced the introduction of her legislation to establish a “Soil Health Transition Loan Program” at the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday, according to a news release.
Spanberger, who is also chair of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee’s Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry, introduced this legislation to support farmers and producers looking to start or strengthen existing conservation efforts on their farms.
The Healthy Soil, Resilient Farmers Act would distribute these loans and help crop and livestock producers improve their soil health as well as increase their soil carbon levels. This would be done by expanding existing authorities at the USDA under the Farm Service Agency’s Conservation Loan Program.
These loans would provide more flexibility for family farmers who want to adopt the best practices in cover-cropping, crop rotation, advanced grazing management, organic production and other techniques. Farmers who receive these loans would also be allowed a three-year deferment on the loan’s interest and payments on loan principle.
Spanberger visited Louisa County farmer Dustin Madison to discuss the importance of supporting Central Virginia farmers as they look to strengthen successful, voluntary conservation practices to increase soil health and provide long-term economic benefits.
In October 2019, Spanberger led a hearing that focused on the financial and conservation benefits of precision agriculture, where she heard Madison’s testimony.
“Central Virginia farmers take their responsibility as stewards of the land seriously, and they have a record of successful participation in USDA conservation efforts. But amid an economic downturn, continued trade wars, and a public health crisis, many farmers are finding it difficult to make new investments in some of these practices,” she said. “Especially for new and beginning farmers, we need to take steps to improve access to capital that can be used to keep Central Virginia’s soil productive and healthy. Through a new loan program at the FSA, my legislation would provide additional incentives to help expand practices that will pay off for farm families in the long run. As Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee, I’m committed to supporting farmers who want to invest in conservation initiatives, and I’ll keep fighting to make sure they have the tools and resources they need to make future investments, produce higher yields, and protect their soil health.”
The Healthy Soil, Resilient Farmers Act would restrict Soil Health Transition Loan access to co-op or family-owned farms.
To read the text of the bill, click here.