WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and Jeff Rutledge, a rice farmer from Newport, Arkansas, highlighted how a strong farm safety net allows producers to enact the best conservation practices on their land.
Rutledge, a fifth-generation farmer who produces rice, soybeans and corn along the White and Cache Rivers, was on Capitol Hill to testify before the Subcommittee on Conservation, Climate, Forestry, and Natural Resources at a hearing entitled “Conservation in the Farm Bill: Making Conservation Programs Work for Farmers and Ranchers.”
Rutledge currently serves as vice president of the Agriculture Council of Arkansas, one of the inaugural members of the USA Rice-Ducks Unlimited Rice Stewardship Partnership Committee and various other committees and boards.
“Rice farmers are passionate conservationists. They invest their own financial resources to bring these Farm Bill conservation programs to their farm. USA Rice has formed partnerships with conservation organizations like Ducks Unlimited and the private sector to expand the conservation opportunities and produce rice that benefits the soil, water and wildlife resources as well as our local communities. However, none of these historic producer investments in conservation can happen if the farm is not profitable. I urge Congress to ensure all producers have the safety-net to continue to be sustainable both economically as well as environmentally,” Rutledge told subcommittee members during his opening statement.
Boozman was particularly interested in the nexus between a strong farm safety net and the ability to implement successful conservation practices. He asked Rutledge if his experience matched that point.
“We’re trying to do it as sustainably and conservation minded as we can as those natural resources are where we earn our living from, so we are going to take care of them better than anyone will. But we can’t do that if we’re not in business,” Rutledge said.
Boozman also shared his concerns that conservation dollars in the Inflation Reduction Act designated solely for climate or carbon practices box out a farmer’s ability to meet local resource concerns. He asked Rutledge to speak about whether Congress should avoid prioritizing one natural resource concern over others.
“There is a myriad of natural resource concerns—as many as there are farms. The practices don’t fit everywhere. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to what works best and what best protects our natural resources on any individual farm—even within one individual farm,” Rutledge said.