Ahead of Farm Bill Debate, Booker, Lee Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Conservation Program

A news release on Thursday from Sen. Cory Booker (D., N.J.) stated that, “Today, [Sen. Booker] and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill that would reshape EQIP to be more efficient and effective.

“Started in 1998, EQIP is a voluntary conservation program in the Farm bill that provides farmers and ranchers with federal cost-share grants to implement environmentally-beneficial conservation practices on working agricultural land.

“Despite this worthy goal, analysis of EQIP between 2009 and 2016 showed that  just 14 percent – or $600 million – of all EQIP funding went towards certain conservation practices that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) identifies as producing significant environmental benefits. In contrast, more than $1 billion – or more than 20 percent of EQIP funds – was spent on infrastructure practices that produce relatively little environmental benefit. The EQIP Improvement Act would address this imbalance by readjusting funding to prioritize conservation practices with significantly greater environmental and water quality benefits.”

The release noted that, “Specifically, the EQIP Improvement Act would do the following:

·      Reduces from 75 percent to 40 percent the maximum federal cost-share for 25 practices that produce little environmental benefit.

·      Reduces the overall five-year EQIP payment cap from $450,000 to $150,000 to allow more small farmers to receive EQIP funding.

·      Ends an arbitrary requirement that 60 percent of EQIP funds flow to animal agriculture, giving more discretion to states to select the best projects for funding.

·      Requires USDA to prioritize practices that provide significant environmental benefits for water quality and soil health.”

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