U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs provide $6 billion per year to help farmers and ranchers adopt better conservation systems that help protect our soil, air, woods, waters, and wildlife. Congress revised the major conservation programs in passing the 2018 Farm Bill, and USDA has been issuing new rules to implement the changes.
The rules are critical, because they tell farmers and ranchers what they must do to participate in the programs, and what help they might obtain to implement conservation systems.
The process starts with an Environmental Assessment by the agency to compare the trade-offs of different approaches. But as we often note in our comments, USDA’s Environmental Assessments routinely fall short of the requirement under the National Environmental Policy Act that the agency develop and assess more than one possible way of implementing the changes.
Our comments on each rule highlight where USDA got it right, where they got it wrong, and where the agency missed an opportunity to use the programs to promote soil health and better conservation on America’s farms and ranches.