Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and John Boozman (R., Ark.) introduced the Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act, a bipartisan effort to improve farmer access to the voluntary farm conservation programs run through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
NRCS works with farmers to improve conservation efforts. However, the federal reporting regulations required when operating conservation programs have made it difficult for some farmers to participate in the programs. Additionally, because this reporting system is done electronically and requires reliable internet access, farmers in rural areas with limited broadband access are even further disadvantaged. The requirement for producers to obtain and maintain Dun & Bradstreet’s (DUNS) and System of Award Management (SAM) numbers have created an additional burden for program participation.
Klobuchar and Boozman’s bill would remove this barrier to the program, allowing farmers to take advantage of the NRCS assistance in conservation programs, including the cost-share program that helps farmers with the cost of implementing conservation measures.
“Farmers and producers across Minnesota are eager to take part in voluntary conservation programs, but for many, the burdensome reporting requirements and regulations are a barrier to access,” Klobuchar said. “Our bipartisan legislation will help remove government red tape that is standing between small and beginning farmers and the conservation programs that will help protect their farmland and the environments within their communities.”
Boozman added, “Arkansas farmers and ranchers are excellent stewards of the environment. They strive hard to help us live up to our nickname of the Natural State, yet they are often boxed out of voluntary conservation programs to help accomplish this goal. Our bill can help them protect our shared resources by removing the bureaucratic barriers that keep family farmers from participating in these programs.”
Thousands of farmers and ranchers voluntarily participate in the wide range of conservation programs that are available through NRCS, and many of these programs offer a cost-share payment that helps farmers with the cost of implementing conservation measures. The Improving Access to Farm Conservation Act would remove burdensome regulations for NRCS cost-share recipients, which currently puts small farmers on the same level as other entities receiving multimillion-dollar government contracts, such as large military contractors.