Hoeven: Farm Bill Tools Can Help to Address Upstream Concerns

Senator Meets with USDA Secretary Vilsack

MOORHEAD, MINN. – Senator John Hoeven today said he worked on the Senate Agriculture Committee and joint Senate-House conference committee to include programs in the Farm Bill to help provide rural flood protection for the Red River Valley. The senator also expressed appreciation for U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack coming to the region today and committing $50 million to apply Farm Bill programs to addressing upstream concerns.

The senator also stressed with Vilsack the importance of working with local groups and avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach to implementing the USDA’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and other conservation-related programs to adequately address the unique circumstances of the area.

“Secretary Vilsack’s visit today is important because he can see firsthand the flood challenges we face and the need for the USDA to help build upstream flood protection, which is an important element of comprehensive flood protection for the Valley,” Hoeven said. “We worked to include in the new farm bill, RCPP, EQIP and other programs that can hold back water and help us to protect communities at risk. We’re grateful to Secretary Vilsack for being here today and we urge him to provide the necessary flexibility to make these programs workable for our farmers, water boards and the Red River Retention Authority.”

As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and a conferee on the 2014 farm bill conference committee, Hoeven helped to negotiate the final version of the Farm Bill, which includes a $58 billion conservation title. Within the title, he worked with colleagues in the Senate and House to create the RCPP, which combines four existing programs into one streamlined, efficient rural water management and flood protection program.

In March, Hoeven and members of the North Dakota and Minnesota congressional delegations sent a letter to Vilsack asking specifically for flood protection funding for the Red River of the North Watershed Basin. Vilsack responded in May by designating the region a Critical Conservation Area under RCPP, which makes the basin eligible for funding to mitigate flood risks.

In addition, to RCPP, Vilsack today announced that the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will use other conservation program tools that Hoeven worked to include in the Farm Bill to provide targeted assistance to North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota. These programs include the:

  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Will provide $8 billion between FY2014 and FY2018 for technical and financial assistance for wide range of conservation practices, such as grassed waterways, conservation tillage, nutrient management, drainage water management and riparian restoration.
  • Conservation Stewardship Program: (CSP) Provides incentives for farmers and ranchers who are already using NRCS programs to take their conservation activities to the next level.
  • Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP): Provides incentive payments for landowners who restore and protect wetlands and grasslands.

Hoeven has been pushing for a comprehensive flood control plan for the entire valley, as well as the Fargo-Moorhead, area that includes four components:

  • Permanent flood protection for the Fargo-Moorhead area
  • Upstream flood protection measures for rural areas
  • Levees and other infrastructure to provide regional flood protection and
  • Affordable flood insurance for homeowners and businesses

Today’s event was attended by the congressional delegations of Minnesota and North Dakota, members of the RRRA, water board members from the two states, as well as local commodity and farm groups.