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Chairwoman Spanberger Opening Statement at Hearing on Managing for Soil Health: Securing the Conservation and Economic Benefits of Healthy Soils

Washington, June 25, 2019

WASHINGTON (June 25, 2019) – House Agriculture Committee Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry Chairwoman Abigail Spanberger of Virginia delivered the following remarks at the subcommittee hearing on “Managing for Soil Health: Securing the Conservation and Economic Benefits of Healthy Soils.”

[As Prepared for Delivery]

“Good Morning, I would like to welcome everyone to this hearing of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee on Managing for Soil Health: Securing the Conservation and Economic Benefits of Healthy Soils, a topic critically important to American agriculture and communities across the nation. I would also like to thank Ranking Member Doug LaMalfa for his engagement on this issue, and each Member of the Subcommittee for taking part in this hearing today.

“Soil health is a critical topic for this Subcommittee to address because it underpins so many of our other conservation efforts.

“Soil health practices such as cover crops, crop rotations, and no-till or reduced-tillage have the potential to provide financial benefits to farmers by reducing input costs, increasing yields, and ensuring the productivity of crop land over the long term.

“These same soil health practices can also provide environmental benefits that the rest of us enjoy: healthy soil filters water, reduces runoff, and sequesters carbon.

“Healthy soil also reduces risk: in recent years, droughts and floods have cost our economy billions of dollars. Because healthy soil is better able to hold water, it can better withstand droughts and reduce runoff in floods.

“Because healthy soils benefit not only farmers but the public at large, USDA provides financial support to farmers to implement soil health practices, through programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Conservation Reserve Program.

“Producers in my home state of Virginia are recognizing the value of and adopting these practices. Between 2012 and 2017, across Virginia we saw more than a 35% increase in cropland acres planted with cover crops. We also have more than a million acres of crop land in Virginia where no-till practices are used.

“Managing for soil health offers an exciting value proposition to farmers and society. It is my hope with this hearing today, we can discuss the value of soil stewardship, share best practices, and learn about any barriers to adoption of soil management systems.”

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