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Chair Spanberger Opening Statement at Hearing to Review Access to Conservation Programs by Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers

Washington, December 17, 2019
Chair Spanberger Opening Statement at Hearing to Review Access to Conservation Programs by Historically Underserved Farmers and Ranchers

WASHINGTON- House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Chair Abigail Spanberger of Virginia delivered the following statement at today's hearing to review access to conservation programs by Historically Underserved farmers and ranchers.

[As Prepared for Delivery]

"Good morning and thank you for being here today as we review access to conservation programs by Historically Underserved farmers and ranchers.

"Sustainable agriculture must be a welcoming and rewarding profession, especially for our Historically Underserved producers, which includes our minority, women, beginning, and veteran farmers and ranchers, as well as those who have limited financial resources.

"Historically Underserved farmers face a range of unique challenges.  Some of their families have been farming for generations but have faced discrimination and insufficient access to credit. Others have limited farming experience or come up against misinformed stereotypes, and they may find that existing tools do not adequately meet their needs.

"Title II programs seek to protect our soils, water, wildlife, and other natural resources while improving production of food and fiber. Achieving this goal requires that we support our producers and account for the variety of challenges they face.

"Congress has enacted a number of policies designed to address the needs of Historically Underserved producers. Specifically, the 2018 Farm Bill built upon this effort, establishing additional tools and incentives to overcome barriers and bolster across-the-board participation.

"Data shows us that Historically Underserved farmers and ranchers are increasingly accessing conservation programs.  While this trend is encouraging, Historically Underserved producers continue to account for a disproportionately small share of agricultural producers relative to their numbers in the general population.  We must continue to invest in and shape conservation programs so that they better account for structural barriers and recognize the contributions of Historically Underserved farmers and ranchers.

"A continued emphasis on equity in the delivery of Title II programs is needed to ensure broad participation in conservation programs.  I hope with this hearing we can delve into the substantial barriers that stand between Historically Undeserved producers and fully utilizing USDA conservation programs, discuss the implementation of targeted policies included in the 2018 Farm Bill, and build a better pathway toward attracting more farmers to conservation programs."
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