Casey, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Protect Rural Economies Through Conservation Reform

Bipartisan legislation refocuses conservation spending on marginal land, ensures greater access to beginning young farmers and ranchers

Casey, Colleagues Introduce Bill to Protect Rural Economies Through Conservation Reform

Washington, D.C. – In an effort to enhance support for farmers in improving soil health and water quality, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), alongside his colleagues U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced the bipartisan Give our Resources the Opportunity to Work (GROW) Act of 2018. This legislation ensures that the government isn’t outcompeting farmers by inflating farmland cash rental rates, while directing more resources to targeted, partial field practices that improve water quality, such as riparian buffers and filter strips. The GROW Act directs USDA to enroll 4 million acres in CRP practices that directly benefit water quality over the course of the next farm bill.

“I’m pleased to join with my colleagues from Iowa and Ohio on a bipartisan bill that will strengthen the farm economy while improving the health of the environment,” said Senator Casey. “The next Farm Bill must focus our limited conservation dollars on the most environmentally sensitive lands, help farmers and ranchers achieve better soil health and water quality, and improve access to land and USDA resources for young and beginning farmers. This bill does just that.” 

The GROW Act makes reforms to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which collectively account for 90 percent of conservation spending.

Specifically, the GROW Act:

  • Establishes a new CLEAR (Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers) option within continuous CRP (CCRP)
  • Maintains annual enrollment for CSP and funding for EQIP
  • Levels the playing field for beginning farmers looking to access farmland by limiting general sign-up CRP rental rates
  • Promotes grazing and land conservation by expanding the CRP Grasslands Initiative to 3 million acres
  • Provides increased incentives through CSP for cover crops and managed intensive rotational grazing
  • Helps young and beginning farmers access EQIP by providing additional dollars up front to help with cash flow 
  • Makes most prime farmland and class I, II, III land ineligible for CRP enrollment
  • Maintains CRP right-sized at 24 million acres and precludes whole farm enrollment into the program
  • Protects rural economies by reforming how much county cropland can be enrolled in CRP
  • Directs USDA to submit a report on land access, tenure and transition

The GROW Act is endorsed by the National Grain and Feed Association and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.