U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, introduced the Agriculture Innovation Act, legislation that would strengthen agricultural data collection and research to connect farmers and ranchers with the most effective conservative practices. The legislation would improve the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) secure and confidential data collection procedures for assessing how various conservation and production practices increase crop yield, bolster soil health, and otherwise boost productivity. USDA currently manages and stores valuable producer data, but the data can be better utilized to bolster producers’ understanding of which conservation practices help reduce risk and increase profitability.
“South Dakota farmers and ranchers are familiar with the many challenges that accompany their way of life,” said Thune. “Among them is measuring the economic value that conservation practices have on production, especially as the agriculture community tries to reduce risk and increase productivity amid a global food security crisis. That’s why Congress should help producers and trusted researchers – like land-grant universities – better utilize USDA’s data to more effectively identify the conservation practices that would best improve productivity on farm and ranch operations.”
“As the economic backbone of rural communities across our state, farmers and producers deserve the most up-to-date resources possible to inform their operations,” said Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will provide farmers with better access to comprehensive USDA data, ensuring they are able to use the most effective conservation practices for boosting productivity and improving crop yield.”
“It can be difficult for producers to see that soil health and conservation agriculture really pay off,” said Levi Neuharth, chairman of the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition. “With the Agriculture Innovation Act, the ability to make use of the extensive, real-world data that USDA already collects to show that healthy land management practices make producers more profitable and more resilient to volatile changes in weather and the markets would be helpful.”
“Earlier this year, USDA announced a billion-dollar investment in Climate Smart Commodities. We need to update the way USDA gathers and analyzes data to make sure this investment is being used effectively,” said Keith Alverson, farmer and owner, K2 Farms Inc. “The Agriculture Innovation Act is an important step in ensuring farmers are equipped with the right tools to feed America, conserve the land, and strengthen our bottom line.”
The Agriculture Innovation Act would:
- Direct the secretary of agriculture to identify, collect, link, and analyze data relating to the impacts of conservation and other production practices on enhancing crop yields, soil health, and otherwise reducing risk and improving farm and ranch profitability.
- Allow the secretary of agriculture to establish a secure, confidential cloud-based conservation and farm productivity data center to store operational, transactional, and administrative program databases and records that support business, statistical, and other analysis.
- Empower USDA to use research, analysis, and evaluation products derived from enhanced data to provide technical assistance to farmers and improve farm program implementation.
The legislation has been endorsed by the National Corn Growers Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Natural Resources Defense Council, AGree Coalition, Ducks Unlimited, BPC Action, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Pheasants Forever, American Farmland Trust, Environmental Defense Fund, American Sportfishing Association, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Izaak Walton League of America, the National Wildlife Federation, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Woodcock Association, Angler Action Foundation, Archery Trade Association, Danone North America, Mishra and Roznik, Arizona State University Morrison School of Agribusiness, National Deer Association, Quail Forever, Ruffed Grouse Society, Supporters of Agriculture Research, Unilever United States, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
Thune and Klobuchar recently introduced legislation to improve the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) by bolstering access to grazing, providing more enrollment options to producers, and addressing CRP implementation issues following the 2018 farm bill. Thune, who has helped write four farm bills throughout his time in Congress, will continue introducing farm bill proposals ahead of the current bill’s expiration, which is set for September 2023.