House Ag subcommittee holds hearing on conservation programs
The House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on challenges and successes of conservation programs in 2020.
The hearing focused on difficulties the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has faced amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton testified, “COVID-19 did have an impact on our operations. Our staffing levels have been impacted due to diminished ability to on-board employees and difficulty in completing relocations.”
But he added, “Although we are at varying phases of reopening, our field staff have continued servicing our customers.”
“Lawmakers have worn out the word ‘unprecedented’ in recent months, but it is truly difficult to overstate how volatile this year has been for both the NRCS and the American farmers, ranchers, and foresters they serve,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., the subcommittee chairwoman.
“For months, producers have been dealing with the disruptive impact that COVID-19 has had on their own lives, businesses, and localities. On top of that, they have had to reckon with a deepening economic crisis, continued instability in the markets, and destructive weather events from coast to coast.”
“Amid all these considerations, NRCS has had to think creatively about how best to provide the education, support, and access that farmers need to fully participate in voluntary conservation programs.
“I appreciate the NRCS’s persistence in difficult circumstances — as many family farms struggle to survive, their work has never been more vital. In my own district, I’ve heard from Central Virginia producers about the multitude of ways that conservation techniques can put farmers on stronger financial footing while also improving our climate and protecting our soil and water.”
“USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has persevered through the challenges of this year, adapting to the restrictions in place due to COVID-19 and continuing to administer these critical conservation programs,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa, D-Calif., the subcommittee ranking member.
“In the last several farm bills, we prioritized access to conservation programs across the country. In my home state of California, partnerships with NRCS have improved waterfowl habitats. It was great to hear from both NRCS Acting Chief Kevin Norton as well as our conservation partners. I look forward to maintaining relationships that are good for waterfowl and our agriculture lands across the country.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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