Grassley cautions against land idling programs in Senate floor speech 

In an Aug. 5 speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, highlighted the importance of working lands conservation programs as the Biden administration moves forward with it’s “30 x 30” conservation initiative. 
Shortly after being sworn into office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order on climate change, also known as the “30 x 30” initiative due to its overarching goal to conserve 30 percent of U.S. land and water by the year 2030. 

Grassley said this figure could only be achieved by placing an additional 440 million acres in permanent conservation.

“This rhetoric empowers our nation’s corn and soybean competitors to increase their output,” he stated, specifically highlighting Brazil, a country that “has already plowed under more than half of the tropical savannah,” which is a storehouse for carbon dioxide.

“If we tie the hands of American farmers, our competitors will continue to meet the needs of a growing hungry world. And by 2050, the world population will grow to 9 billion people and you’re going to have to feed them,” he said, adding that the U.S. should not sacrifice “its leadership in production agriculture to other countries that already have a poor environmental standard.”

Grassley noted that the latest farm bill encourages farmers and landowners to preserve environmentally sensitive land through working lands programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

“…[B]ut instead this administration has proposals that take productive farmland out of production, placing the U.S. at a competitive advantage,” he said. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced June 14 it would offer Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) rental rates that are 10 percent more than the maximum allowed by the 2018 farm law. NGFA responded with a statement noting that Congress established the maximum CRP rental rate levels to help ensure CRP is targeting marginal farmland and not competing with farmers for productive farmland. The 2018 farm bill established the maximum CRP rental rates for land enrolled through general sign-ups at 85 percent of each county’s average cash rental rate and 90 percent for land enrolled under continuous CRP sign-ups.

“We learned a lesson from the early days of the CRP that you take too much land out of production in one local area and it hurts the small business people” whose livelihoods depend on agricultural production, Grassley said. He also emphasized that increasing CRP rental rates would make it more difficult for new and beginning farmers to compete and gain access to land.  

“Instead of focusing on taking more land out of production agriculture, let’s work on a strategy that allows farmers to continue to farm their land while improving environmental outcomes,” Grassley concluded.