Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester sent a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the Senate and House Agriculture Committees urging them to maintain a provision in the 2018 Farm Bill conference report that would allow new poultry farmers to access conservation funds through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

After hearing concerns from poultry farmers in Delaware, they proposed this provision, included in the Senate Farm Bill, to revise previous EQIP language stating that only farmers with an “existing resource concern” could apply for conservation funds. The proposed provision would include language that would require EQIP to provide funding for “identified, new, or expected resource concerns,” so that farmers can access these critical funds before they have birds on their farms.

The letter reads:

“Dear Chairman Roberts, Chairman Conaway, Ranking Member Stabenow, and Ranking Member Peterson.”

“As you continue negotiating a final 2018 Farm Bill conference report, we write to urge you to maintain a provision related to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in Section 2301(2)(A) of the Senate amendment to H.R. 2. The state of Delaware is home to a vibrant and thriving poultry industry. Many of our farmers utilize EQIP cost share assistance for best management practices that benefit the environment, including manure storage and composting facilities. As we have all visited with poultry growers in our state, we have heard a common problem that is resolved by this provision in the Senate Farm Bill.”

“According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, farmers can only apply for EQIP funds when they have an ‘existing resource concern.’ What this means, in practice, is that poultry growers cannot access EQIP funds until they have birds on their farms. This period of time when farmers have birds on their farms but do not have adequate manure management facilities creates environmental and biosecurity challenges and undercuts the mission of EQIP.”

“Through our conversations with affected farmers, we have been able to identify a solution to this problem. Rather than requiring farmers to have an ‘existing resource concern,’ our proposed solution is to have EQIP provide funding for ‘identified, new, or expected resource concerns.’ We believe that the current situation our farmers find themselves in is simply an unintended consequence of previous EQIP language, and that this provision represents a commonsense solution that provides a win for both farmers and the environment.”

“We are thankful to our Senate colleagues for including this language in the Senate Farm Bill and urge you to maintain it in the final 2018 Farm Bill conference report.”