U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández, D-New Mexico, has joined two colleagues in introducing legislation that aims at supporting agricultural practices in arid climates of the western United States.
The other sponsors are U.S. Rep. David Valadao, R-California, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine.
The Support Water-Efficient Strategies and Technologies Act, or Support the WEST Act, would allow the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the cost shares to 85 percent for practices under the Environmental Quality Incentives Programs that support water conservation and drought resiliency. Additionally, it aims to improve soil health through outreach programs and payments for soil testing. The legislation would also allow perennial production systems to access supplemental payments through the Conservation Stewardship Program.
It would also make perennial production systems eligible for supplemental payments within the Conservation Stewardship Program.
“For generations, farmers and ranchers in New Mexico have been conserving water and growing drought-resilient crops in arid climates. Their crops feed our families and are distributed across America’s tables,” Rep. Leger Fernández said in a press release. “However, we learned during our ‘Farm-to-Congress’ conversations that USDA conservation programs are sometimes targeted for wetter conditions found in the East and Midwest. This bill will help these essential programs work better for Western farmers and ranchers.”
She said ranch and farming communities in the West deserve the same opportunities as their counterparts in other regions of the country.
The lawmakers hope that the Support the WEST Act will be included in the larger Farm Bill.
New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau President Larry Reagan said in a statement that the legislation “highlights the importance of supporting and deploying water conservation programs on our working lands and expands that opportunity for producers.”