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Ranking Member Stabenow Applauds USDA Farm Bill Implementation of Regional Conservation Partnerships

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) interim final rule to implement improvements to the Regional Conservation Partnership Program in the 2018 Farm Bill:

“In the Farm Bill, we strengthened conservation partnerships to expand the innovative work happening in Michigan and across the country to protect our land and water,” said Ranking Member Stabenow. “I’m pleased the USDA is moving forward to implement improvements that will cut red tape for farmers and help them address the climate crisis.”

Stabenow created the Regional Conservation Partnership Program in the 2014 Farm Bill as an innovative approach to conservation that uses public-private partnerships to improve land and water. In the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill, she led the effort to make improvements that streamline and expand the reach of partnerships. The interim final rule will make the following changes as directed by the Farm Bill:

  • Triples mandatory funding, which will leverage nearly $3 billion in new private investment in locally led conservation over the next decade.
  • Eliminates a burdensome requirement that projects must operate through existing USDA conservation programs, which often do not provide enough flexibility to accommodate the unique needs and focus of projects. The 2018 Farm Bill changes allow USDA to operate the program with partners defining the combination of conservation activities that will most effectively address issues like water quality, drought, and wildlife habitat. This will increase flexibility and ease of administration.
  • Increases focus on conservation results – such as improved water quality, drought resilience, and wildlife habitat – by requiring USDA to provide clear guidance to partners on how to track and report on the conservation outcomes of their projects.
  • Simplifies the project application process, providing additional flexibility in partner matching contributions, allocating funding to partners for project outreach and development activities, and allowing current successful projects to renew under an expedited process.
  • Authorizes renewals of successful projects to continue funding and grow the reach of good work through existing partnerships on the ground.