WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has begun working toward implementation of the bipartisan conservation provisions U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) successfully secured in the 2018 Farm Bill to strengthen and improve the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). Senator Ernst worked with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MN) in these efforts.
“Working across the aisle, I successfully secured bipartisan provisions in the most recent Farm Bill to incentivize rural and urban partnerships for conservation. Now, President Trump’s Agriculture Department is beginning the process of implementing these important measures,” said Senator Ernst, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy. “By cutting Washington’s bureaucratic red tape, we’re providing our farmers – the first conservationists – with greater flexibility in their efforts to improve water quality and soil health. I urge Iowans to provide their input on this rule, and I commend Secretary Perdue for helping put our efforts into action.”
The 2018 Farm Bill included many of Senator Ernst’s conservation priorities, including provisions from the bipartisan Regional Conservation Partnership Program Improvement Act to strengthen the RCPP. In addition, Ernst secured portions of her bipartisan Give Our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act of 2018 that will revise and strengthen the current provisions of the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).
Last week, USDA published their interim final rule to implement improvements to the RCPP in the 2018 Farm Bill. The interim final rule will make the following changes, among others, as directed by the Farm Bill:
- Increase Flexibility: by eliminating a burdensome requirement that projects must operate through existing USDA conservation programs, which often do not provide enough flexibility to accommodate the unique needs and focus of projects. The 2018 Farm Bill changes allow USDA to operate the program with partners defining the combination of conservation activities that will most effectively address issues like water quality, drought, and wildlife habitat.
- Cut Red Tape: by simplifying the application process the rule provides more flexibility in partner matching contributions, allocating funding to partners for project outreach and development activities, and allowing current successful projects to renew under an expedited process.
- Improve Conservation Results by requiring USDA to provide clear guidance to partners on how to track and report on the conservation outcomes of their projects, such as improved water quality, drought resilience, and wildlife habitat.
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