Demand for conservation programs calls for more funding

A coalition of agriculture and conservation organizations is asking Congress to fund at least $1.2 billion for USDA Conservation Operations in fiscal year 2024.

The coalition is also requesting lawmakers support full farm bill funding for conservation programs.

National Association of Conservation Districts President Kim LaFleur tells Brownfield nearly 90 percent of the funds are used for conservation technical assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

“It is a substantial increase, but we feel it’s needed to help NRCS address the huge backlog and the demand for NRCS conservation programs,” she says.

She says the increase in funding would help address staffing shortages, streamline the application process, and increase payment rates to farmers for some programs like the Conservation Reserve Program.

“We’re asking for some of those payment rates to be reconsidered as well to be adjusted to meet the new reality of what it costs to get conservation on the ground,” she explains.

LaFleur says having broad support from conservation and ag groups, including the American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Corn Growers Association, and the National Cotton Council, shows the importance of the additional funding. 

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