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Chairman Roberts Reviews Conservation, Forestry Farm Bill Priorities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held a hearing, titled, “Conservation and Forestry: Perspectives on the Past and Future Direction for the 2018 Farm Bill.” 

Click here to watch Chairman Roberts' opening statement. 

This marks the fifth hearing in preparation for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization. 

To provide input for the Senate Agriculture Committee’s consideration for the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization, click here. The link will be active for five business days after the hearing. 

Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks, as prepared for delivery:                                                               

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry to order. 

Today our Committee turns its attention to two important titles in the Farm Bill – conservation and forestry. 

Across the country and throughout Kansas, I’ve heard repeatedly from farmers and ranchers about the importance of these programs, how they successfully incentivize farmers to take conservation to the next level, and the need for continued federal investment in these critical programs.  

Farmers and ranchers, through voluntary conservation programs – not through regulatory action – are making a difference and contributing to environmental benefits to address resource concerns like reducing nutrient runoff, improving soil health, reducing erosion, and improving water quality, all while meeting the demand of growing the safest and most abundant food supply for the world.  

Reflecting on the 2014 Farm Bill, that law made a number of changes to both the conservation and forestry titles.  

Within the Conservation title, 23 separate programs were consolidated and streamlined into 13, with the sole purpose of improving program efficiencies and program delivery.  

The Conservation title also contributed to deficit reduction through voluntary cuts to conservation programs totaling $6 billion over 10 years.  

The forestry title eliminated unused and unfunded authorities, and it provided some helpful tools for land managers on private, state and federal land, part of the National Forest System. 

We have before us today two panels of witnesses who will be able to provide input on the current status of programs – what is working well and what challenges remain. 

We have invited the Department of Agriculture to hear firsthand from folks who administer and deliver the conservation and forestry programs our Committee authorizes in the Farm Bill. 

We also have a panel of stakeholders comprised almost entirely of producers and landowners who utilize and participate in these conservation and forestry programs.  

More importantly, I hope we hear input from our witnesses about the future direction of these programs and how improvements can be made. 

This hearing is timely especially having just visited Big Sky Country with Senator Daines. I had the opportunity to visit and learn about several issues facing the forestry sector, land owners, and regulatory challenges related to federal land management and endangered species.  

While Kansas may not be the most forested state, I understand the challenges facing the forestry sector, which are not vastly different from the challenges facing agriculture.  

As our Committee works to craft the next Farm Bill, we will find ourselves in a very tough budgetary environment. I know many within the conservation community will be looking to increase funding for programs that experienced cuts in the 2014 Farm Bill.  

Congress will have difficult decisions to make as it tries to figure out how to address the needs, but I urge everyone, at the very least, work to protect conservation and consider working within the confines of the existing programs.   

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.  

With that, I recognize Senator Stabenow for any remarks.