Buck Introduces Bill to Improve Flexibility of USDA Farmland Conservation Program


US Congressman Ken Buck


Washington — Today, Congressman Ken Buck (CO-04) and Congresswoman Yadira Caraveo (CO-08) introduced the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Improvement Act. The bill will provide the flexibility farmers and ranchers need to conserve water on working lands under CREP, while providing them with fair compensation for retiring their water rights or limiting their water use.

Currently, CREP leverages federal and non-federal funds to target conservation goals. The program works by providing farmers and ranchers with payments to remove land from production. In Colorado, CREP is used primarily to voluntarily reduce water consumption on farmland. However, the CREP program has not always worked as intended, and more flexibility is needed to ensure that CREP goals are met and that participants receive fair compensation.

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Improvement Act would improve CREP by:

Directing USDA to allow dry land agricultural uses on CREP acreage where appropriate;

Adding dry land crop production and grazing to the list of appropriate conservation practices for the CREP program;

Allowing continuous cropping systems, like alfalfa, to be eligible for drought and water conservation CREP agreements;

Ensuring fairer payments to producers by stipulating that annual payments for drought and water conservation CREP agreements will be equal to the difference between the irrigated acre payment rates and the dry land acre payment rates, as determined by USDA. And ensuring that any drought and water conservation agreement that includes the permanent retirement of a water right receives the full irrigated acre payment rate, and more.

“Those in the West know how important water and water usage is to our way of life. Unfortunately, water conservation efforts have far too often penalized hardworking farmers and ranchers and prevented common sense policies from being implemented, “said Buck. “I’m proud to sponsor this legislation to incentivize conservation efforts, prioritize food security, and help our rural communities better manage important resources.”

“I hear every day from farmers and ranchers in our community who are struggling because of drought conditions in the West,” said Caraveo. “I’m glad to join this bipartisan solution to address the water crisis and ensure our farmers and ranchers are positioned to help preserve our water supply for generations to come.”

“This valuable measure will create flexibility in the CREP program to reflect local environmental conditions and to meet unique regional conservation goals,” said Chad Franke, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President. “These modifications will not only allow farmers to better manage our most precious resource, water, but it will boost our rural economies that rely on a vibrant agricultural system. We thank Congressman Buck and Congresswoman Caraveo for responding to the needs of our communities by bringing forward this important piece of legislation.”

“Congressman Buck’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program Improvement Act is a welcome measure that further incentivizes our farmers and ranchers to participate in voluntary conservation efforts,” said Carlyle Currier, President, Colorado Farm Bureau. “With the previous $50,000 payment limitation waiver, the proposed legislation opens up even more opportunities for additive water conservation and stewardship. Our members on the eastern plains are grateful for the Congressman’s work on this important bill.”

Filed Under: AgricultureConsumer IssuesFeaturedMedia ReleasePolitics


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