Young introduces bill to help farmers access grants to improve water and soil quality

Farmers would have access to existing federal grants to improve water quality and the health of soil under legislation that U.S. Rep. David Young (R-IA) introduced on Wednesday to improve the nation’s watersheds and conservation efforts.

The Water Quality Conservation Act of 2017, H.R. 3646, would use existing technology and program frameworks to identify areas where conservation practices are in highest need. Farmers and community groups would then collaborate on regional plans to use financial and technical assistance to implement conservation techniques that improve watershed quality in those areas.

Efforts would be made to increase nutrient retention in soil, reduce soil erosion, improve soil health and improve overall water quality.

“People on the ground know their own communities, terrain and environment better than those in Washington, D.C.,” Young said. “This fiscally responsible solution identifies, targets and provides existing federal grant funds and directs it to local communities where we can be more effective at improving water quality.”

Communities would have to bring farmers, non-profit groups, universities and other organizations together to draft a precision conservation plan to qualify for the program. States would also have to agree to match federal funds. After implementation, states would report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and farmers on the plan’s effectiveness.

The USDA would then input program data into an easily accessible database that would provide additional conservation resources to farmers. Farmers could use the database to learn about conservation practices for varying soil types and topographies.