Senator Marshall, Colleagues Announce Measure to Streamline Conservation at USDA
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roger Marshall, M.D. and his colleagues Joni Ernst (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) announced a new, bipartisan bill to streamline the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s (NRCS) approval process for new technologies and innovative practices that can be used by landowners to improve water quality and soil health while maintaining productivity. The effort will provide more transparency for stakeholders and set a clear, standardized process for citizens to engage in conservation practices.
“The current process for adopting and updating the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practice standards (CPS) is flawed by bureaucratic processes that lack clear and consistent guidelines. Our producers are rightfully frustrated by the federal government complicating their conservation efforts. We should always strive to make government agencies just as nimble and innovative as the farmers they serve. I’m proud to work on this bipartisan solution with my colleagues to ensure farmers have the tools necessary to support conservation efforts and help producers leave their land cleaner, safer, and healthier than they found it,” said Senator Marshall.
“Iowa’s ability to remain a powerhouse and leader in conservation is heavily determined by how efficiently we can improve and streamline the process for getting new technologies into farmers’ hands,” said Senator Ernst. “By boosting efforts to conserve vulnerable areas, we can promote positive habitat health, increase water quality, strengthen the health of our soil, and ultimately ensure that future generations also have the opportunity to farm.”
“Regenerative agriculture and soil health practices help farmers and producers make their working lands more resilient, something that is widely wanted and needed. As Congress negotiates the next Farm Bill, Republicans and Democrats agree that we must update the process for developing new conservation practice standards at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and make that process more transparent and accessible for all. By leveraging innovation happening in New Mexico and across the country, producers can build more resilience into their operations and make a real difference in our fight against climate change,” said Senator Heinrich.
“Minnesota farmers have been long-time leaders in protecting soil and water quality. That is why it is crucial that we have an effective and efficient process for conservation practices to be approved and implemented on the ground,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation makes common sense improvements that will ensure our farmers have access to the latest tools to support conservation practices.”
The “Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act” is designed to fix the current process for adopting and updating the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practice standards (CPS) which is not working. The current process is opaque, slow, and bureaucratic, and, without clear and consistent guidelines, most producers and researchers are unable to participate in the process of introducing new or updating existing conservation practices standards. This can create a gap between best practices and emerging research and innovation, and, coupled with the sometimes years-long delay between an interim practice standard from one state being available nationally, can result in outdated or incomplete guidance being used in the field. Specifically, this bill would:
1. Clarify the process for updating existing Conservation Practice Standards (CPS) and establishing new CPS:
a. Updates the review process for existing conservation practice standards to at least once every 5 years on a rolling basis and makes the process more transparent by providing the opportunity for public input.
b. Requires the USDA to set up a new streamlined, publicly accessible process for establishing interim conservation practice standards and conservation practice standards, including a published timeline for review and a portal for public submission of conservation practices for consideration as an interim conservation practice standard.
2. Makes CPS more transparent and accessible:
a. Requires the USDA to increase transparency and provide more publicly available information about conservation practice standards, what data and scientific information must be considered in their establishment, and how the public can engage with the process, including how the public can engage State technical committees to consider interim conservation practice standards already in effect in other states.
3. Clarify that one of the purposes of the Conservation Innovation Grants is to help incorporate innovative approaches and new technologies into new and existing CPS.