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Chair Spanberger Opening Statement at Hearing on Title II Conservation Programs

WASHINGTON- House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Chair Abigail Spanberger delivered the following statement at today's hearing titled "Title II Conservation Programs: Exploring Climate Smart Practices":


[As prepared for delivery]

Good Morning. I’m excited to be here today for our first hearing of the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry in the 117th Congress and for the opportunity to work alongside my colleague, Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa, and the rest of the esteemed members of this Subcommittee.

In addition to increasing farm productivity and profitability, conservation agriculture holds enormous potential to help combat the climate crisis – both through increased soil carbon sequestration and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

As we look to scale the adoption of conservation practices, there is perhaps no greater tool available than the Farm Bill’s conservation programs. Title II programs provide much needed technical and financial assistance to encourage the adoption of cover crops, reduced and no-till management systems, and prescribed grazing systems — among many other climate smart practices. And we have seen firsthand these programs working in central Virginia.

Studies show that these programs are effective. Not only do they facilitate greater adoption of conservation practices, but they also make it more likely that farmers will keep implementing these practices in the long term to the benefit of our climate, clean water, and the health of our rural economies. What’s more, these investments are paying dividends to farmer’s bottom lines. When farmers participate in these voluntary conservation programs, they not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the environment by sequestering carbon through healthier soils, they can also improve crop quantity, yield, and profit margins. Put simply, any investment Congress makes in Title II Programs are not just an investment in the future of our planet, but also in the long-term economic success of rural America and America’s farmers.

In recent years, USDA has developed new tools that make it easier than ever to consider climate mitigation benefits during the conservation planning process. Thanks to USDA’s publication of the “blue book,” we have technical guidelines and science-based methods to quantify emissions sinks in agriculture. Likewise, the development of the COMET-Farm online tool has made it possible to assess a farm’s carbon footprint and see how alternative, voluntary management practices could achieve greenhouse gas reductions.

These tools are exciting ways to maximize climate benefits while also making things easier for farmers. And as these tools are refined, I’m hopeful that they will strengthen conservation programs and maximize the benefits delivered to farmers.

In this spirit, I worked across the aisle to introduce the Growing Climate Solutions Act on Earth Day this year. This legislation would create a certification program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmer and forest landowner participation in carbon credit markets. This bill is almost universally endorsed by national farmer organizations, like the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union, while also gaining support from large environmental groups like the Environmental Defense Fund and the National Wildlife Federation and corporations like McDonald’s, Bayer, and Microsoft. This legislation has built a broad coalition because it empowers farmers to continue climate-friendly conservation practices, helps farmers unlock new revenue streams through private carbon markets, and empowers USDA to further develop tools that empower climate-friendly conservation practices.

I’m excited to hear from our witnesses today on their experience utilizing climate smart practices and the role that farm bill programs play in facilitating their adoption. And while we have made great progress in developing the science and the tools that let us better quantify the climate benefits of conservation, I also hope to hear today if there are areas where further research or support may be needed.

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