Conservation Compliance Final Rule Falls Short

The American Farm Bureau says farmers will remain powerless in the Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation Final Rule made public last week by the USDA. Farm Bureau advocated for clear rules and safeguards to ensure fair treatment of farmers in conservation compliance, but the final rule does not remedy unfair enforcement by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. “After decades without a finalized rule in this area, we finally have one, but it, unfortunately, falls short,” says AFB President Zippy Duvall. “Farmers and ranchers are some of the strongest advocates of conservation, as demonstrated by the 140 million acres they’ve voluntarily committed to federal conservation programs.” Duvall also says that’s not what this is about. “This is about unfair treatment, which we’ve clearly laid out for USDA in previous comments and many meetings, backed by court rulings,” he adds. The AFB says farmers deserve a fair process and clarity, including an understanding of the exemptions authorized by Congress. They also deserve to be protected from repeated, unjustified, costly decisions by the NRCS. “Although we appreciate recent actions by USDA to rectify historic wrongs, this was a missed opportunity to ensure fairness going forward,” Duvall says. “We will continue to examine this rule and our options to address its shortcomings.”