Grassley questions Bonnie on USDA’s plans for CRP  

During a July 29 Senate Agriculture Committee confirmation hearing for Robert Bonnie, President Biden's nominee for USDA undersecretary for farm production and conservation, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, discussed the department’s intentions with the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). 

Noting that he is supportive of voluntary conservation programs, Grassley said: “I hope the department remains mindful that many young, beginning farmers struggle to access farmland and often cannot compete with land idling government payment programs [like] CRP. These set aside programs also send market signals to competitors to increase production  acreage.”

Grassley noted that USDA announced in May a $10 million initiative to quantify the climate benefits of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) contracts. He asked: “When quantifying the climate benefits of [a] land idling program like CRP, will this initiative consider the carbon emissions that occur as other countries increase production to seize U.S. market share?” 

Bonnie said that USDA plans to analyze the carbon storage of working lands programs in addition to CRP. He also said it is “vitally important that we get the right lands in the program. We don’t want to take highly productive land in the program. We want to target to the most environmentally sensitive [land],” he said, adding that “there should be lot of agreement” on which lands are prioritized for CRP. 

Bonnie would oversee the Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Risk Management Agency.

In a July 21 letter to USDA and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, NGFA and almost 60 groups noted that Bonnie is “uniquely qualified” to lead USDA’s farm production and conservation mission area “due to his expertise in working lands approaches to conservation and voluntary incentive-based climate and conservation practices for farmers, ranchers, foresters, and landowners.”