U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined 9 of her Senate colleagues to introduce the Small Farm Conservation Act, legislation that would help small farms access federal conservation programs delivered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). EQIP helps farmers improve soil health, water quality, and air quality; protect against drought and weather volatility; and conserve ground and surface water. Small farmers often have difficulty taking advantage of this program because of complex application processes and smaller payments compared to larger operations. The Small Farm Conservation Act would create a new subprogram in EQIP dedicated to making sure that small farmers can access the same financial and technical assistance as their larger counterparts.
“USDA conservation programs like EQIP are vital to help New York producers implement sustainable and regenerative agriculture practices on their land,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Burdensome application processes and inequitable assessment of applications have long been barriers for small and beginning farmers’ ability to access EQIP funding and support. The Small Farm Conservation Act would reduce these barriers and ensure that New York’s small and beginning farmers have access to the funding and technical assistance they need.”
Specifically, the Small Farm Conservation Act would:
- Create a subprogram within EQIP tailored to support small farms and ranches;
- Establish a national subprogram coordinator and one in each State;
- Streamline the application and approval processes for small farmers and ranches;
- Create a bonus payment for farms under 50 acres employing soil health practices;
- Allow small farms to enroll on a continuous basis instead of waiting for the annual ranking period; and
- Require the Natural Resources Conservation Service to train field staff on conservation tailored for small-scale agriculture and to conduct outreach to small-scale farmers and ranchers.
The Small Farm Conservation Act is additionally cosponsored by Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Angus King (I-ME), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), and John Fetterman (D-PA).
More information about the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program is available here.
Full text of the legislation is available here.