WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Zachary Nunn (R-IA-03) — both Members of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee — today introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to streamline and clarify the process by which the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) establishes and updates the conservation practice standards that help farmers and producers improve soil health, build resilience to climate impacts, and achieve their voluntary conservation goals.
The current process for NRCS to approve new conservation practices is slow, bureaucratic, and without clear guidelines — often taking years for a practice to be approved for use by farmers. The bipartisan Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act would close the gap between evidence-based NRCS best practices and emerging research and innovation, enabling producers to more quickly and effectively harness voluntary NRCS conservation programs on their land. Additionally, the bipartisan bill would require more frequent review of new practices and provide more transparency for farmers, Technical Service Providers, researchers, and NRCS staff.
“As the only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, I’ve heard from farmers and producers across our Commonwealth who utilize voluntary conservation practices to improve their yields and boost their bottom lines,” said Spanberger. “Farmers are constantly innovating to find new best practices to further their conservation goals — but bureaucracy is delaying the approval of these practices that farmers and producers could use to their advantage. By cutting unnecessary red tape and making the process more transparent, our bipartisan bill would help make sure that farmers are able to benefit from the most up-to-date, efficient practice standards.”
“There is no better steward of our land than farmers,” said Nunn. “As producers prepare for the future, it’s important they have the tools and resources they need to succeed. No one understands the needs of their land better than farmers, so we must also ensure Iowa’s producers are in the driver’s seat as new conservation practices are developed.”
The bipartisan legislation is endorsed by Kiss the Ground, as well as the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance — which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, Farm Credit Council, American Sugar Alliance, American Soybean Association, Minnesota Farm Bureau, California Farm Bureau Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and dozens of additional agriculture, forestry, and climate-focused organizations.
“The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) applauds Representatives Spanberger and Nunn for introducing the Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act,” said FACA. “This bipartisan legislation will improve the conservation practice standard process to make it more transparent and accessible. With increased investment across NRCS programs, it is imperative that conservation practice standards are updated regularly to reflect the latest science and emerging innovations.”
“Innovation is critical to increasing agriculture conservation. As producers and researchers find new ways to regenerate soil and build on-farm resilience, it is important that NRCS make these practices widely available,” said Erica Campbell, Policy Director at Kiss the Ground, Convenor of Regenerate America. “This bill will reduce red tape in the current process for updating or establishing Conservation Practice Standards, streamlining the process so we can get NRCS up-to-speed on the latest innovations from the field and get funding to farmers faster so they can improve conservation outcomes. It also increases transparency and accessibility in the process, ensuring that more farmers and other stakeholders have a greater voice in determining what practices are funded through federal taxpayer dollars.”
Specifically, the Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act would:
- Clarify the process for updating existing conservation practice standards and establishing new standards. Spanberger’s bill would update the review process for existing conservation practice standards to at least once every 5 years on a rolling basis and makes the process more transparent by providing the opportunity for public input.
- The bill would require USDA to set up a new streamlined, publicly accessible process for establishing interim conservation practice standards and conservation practice standards.
- Make conservation practice standards more transparent and accessible. The Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act would require the USDA to increase transparency and provide more publicly available information about conservation practice standards, including how the public can engage state technical committees to consider interim conservation practice standards already in effect in other states.
- Clarify purposes of Conservation Innovation Grants. Spanberger’s bipartisan bill would make clear that one purpose is to help incorporate innovative approaches and new technologies into new and existing conservation practice standards.
The U.S. Senate companion to the Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act was introduced earlier this year in the U.S. Senate by U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).
Click here for the bill text.