Ag Policy Blog

Boozman Challenges USDA on CRP Rates

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., seen during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing, has raised concerns with USDA over higher rental rates being offered for Conservation Reserve Program contracts. (DTN file photo)

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, wrote Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last week questioning the higher rental rates the Biden administration has announced for the Conservation Reserve Program, which pays farmers to take or keep land out of production for conservation and wildlife purposes.

Boozman said Monday he has not gotten any response to his letter, but one of his aides said Boozman staff and USDA staff are scheduled to discuss the issue later this week.

In recent years, farmers have become less interested in signing up for the program and the Biden administration has raise the rates to try to increase acreage in the program.

Boozman said the contracts may be "legally questionable." He also called on USDA to "cease and desist" from entering into CRP contracts that pay higher rates than detailed in the 2018 farm bill.

-Sen. Boozman letter to Secretary Vilsack http://www.hagstromreport.com/…

Senator Places Hold on Nominee for USDA General Counsel

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday voted unanimously to send President Biden's nomination of Jennifer Lester Moffitt to be Agriculture undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs to the full Senate, but no date has been set for a floor vote.

A senator has placed a hold on Biden's nomination of Janie Simms Hipp to be USDA general counsel, Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark. told reporters.

Stabenow said the senator who put on the hold is a Republican, but she does not know who it is. Boozman said he does not know if the issue is about agriculture or some other matter. Stabenow said she does not know if the senator has an objection to Hipp or if the hold is about something else.

Stabenow said she will work with Boozman to resolve the situation. The committee has voted unanimously to approve the nomination.

The committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Thursday for Robert Bonnie, Biden's nominee for Agriculture undersecretary for farm production and conservation.

Boozman told reporters it is a "good question" what he will ask Bonnie, who is already a climate adviser to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Before he joined the administration, Bonnie wrote that he believes the Agriculture secretary has the authority to create a carbon bank, but Boozman said that in his private conversation with Bonnie it appears the administration has "backed off" from that position.

Boozman has said he believes the Agriculture secretary does not have the authority to use the Commodity Credit Corporation to create a carbon bank.

Moffitt is an official in the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

After the vote on her nomination, Boozman told reporters he is "excited" for her to take the position because he believes that as a Californian she will be concerned about trade and the development of new markets.

"As an experienced farmer, Ms. Moffitt brings an understanding of how the mission area's wide-ranging reach impacts the day-to-day lives of farmers and ranchers, as well as an awareness of how crucial its work is to USDA's larger goal of increasing market opportunities for producers," Boozman added in a news release.

"Her responses to the committee demonstrated that she will work in good faith to carry out the regulatory authorities for which she will be responsible in a manner that is consistent with congressional intent."

In the release, Stabenow said, "Ms. Moffitt has broad support across farm and food groups and other stakeholders. As a farmer herself, she gets what's at stake in our agriculture system and will fight to expand and protect market opportunities as undersecretary."

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

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