Bill would help small farms, ranches access federal conservation program  

Legislation has been introduced to help small farms access federal conservation programs through the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat from Ohio, introduced the Small Farm Conservation Act with Senators Michael Bennet of Colorado and Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.

“It helps small farmers who don’t necessarily have the same resources available as big agriculture and sometimes can’t compete,” he says. “We hear from small farmers that they have a hard time accessing voluntary conservation programs that offer farmers financial cost-shares and technical assistance.”

The voluntary conservation program offers farmers and ranchers financial cost-share and technical assistance to implement conservation practices on working agricultural lands.

The legislation would create a subprogram within EQIP tailored to support small farmers and ranchers; establish a national subprogram coordinator and one in each state; streamline the application and approval processes for small farmers and ranchers; create a bonus payment for farms under 50 acres employing soil health practices; allow small farms to enroll on a continuous basis instead of waiting for the annual ranking period; and require the Natural Resources Conservation Service to train field staff on conservation tailored for small-scale agriculture and to conduct outreach to small-scale farmers and ranchers.

Brown says, “I want to put government on the side of the smaller farmer.” 

The legislation is also cosponsored by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Peter Welch of Vermont, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Angus King of Maine, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and John Fetterman of Pennsylvania.

Audio: Senator Sherrod Brown on the Small Farm Conservation Act and more.

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