WASHINGTON – Yesterday evening, Representatives Rick Crawford (AR-1) and Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2) introduced H.R. 1163, the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act. The bill would improve access to voluntary farm conservation programs administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (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.
Thousands of farmers and ranchers voluntarily participate in the wide range of conservation programs offered through NRCS; many of these programs offer a cost-share payment which helps producers with the cost of implementing conservation measures. However, small farmers registered as business entities are inadvertently forced to comply with an annual federal reporting regulation that is time consuming, difficult to navigate, and costly to comply.
“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.”
“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.”
While current law provides an exemption for assistance provided to “individuals,” most farmers and ranchers have organized themselves as some form of business entity for tax and liability purposes, and therefore are caught up in this regulation despite the relative modesty of their agricultural operations. Many of these farmers employ only a handful of employees.
Many of NRCS’ programs offer a cost-share payment which helps farmers with the cost of implementing these conservation measures. 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. Crawford’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 similar NRCS programs.
Press Release from U.S. Congressman Rick Crawford