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Finding flexibility in the conservation title of farm bill

A U.S. Senator from South Dakota wants to see the conservation title of the next farm bill updated. John Thune says he’d like to see a “working lands approach.”

“We need to look for solutions that improve soil health and provide greater incentives for people to participate.”

He tells Brownfield program flexibility is important. Thune is a co-sponsor of the Conservation Reserve Program Improvement Act, a bipartisan bill addressing haying and grazing of CRP acres. Thune says livestock producers should be allowed earlier access to hay and graze Conservation Reserve Program acres if there’s extreme drought, an issue for northern states in recent years.

“A lot of it has to due with the wildlife habitat protection during nesting season, but there’s still a ton of frustration during drought years. There’s also a growing belief among livestock producers that grazing these areas is good for forest health and is a good conservation tool.”

Thune is would also like to see updates to livestock disaster programs through the Livestock Disaster Improvement Act, a bill making relief programs like the Emergency Conservation Program more user-friendly and update the U.S. Drought Monitor for a better understanding of when a drought starts and ends. He says he is hopeful the bill has a spot in a miscellaneous title of the farm bill.

“It’s kind of the catch-all title. A lot of disaster programs are there and we’ll try to get these modest, but meaningful changes made.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee reviewed the conservation title of the farm bill in a farm bill hearing this week.

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