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Lawmakers look to expand conservation program accessLawmakers look to expand conservation program access

GATES Act includes AGI limitation exemption.

Joshua Baethge

July 21, 2023

2 Min Read
cover crops conservation
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A bipartisan group of lawmakers are introducing legislation to expand access to agriculture conservation programs. They say the Growing Access to Environmental Sustainability Act, or GATES Act, would reduce barriers producers face.

Bill supporters note that current Adjusted Gross Income limitations often prevent producers with high input cost form reaping the full benefits of USDA conservation programs. Since the AGI limitations have not kept pace with inflation, the overall impact of federal conservation efforts has significantly reduced.

“Despite implementing best practices and meeting the incentive-based goals of USDA conservation programs designed to benefit the environment and producers alike, specialty crop producers are often prevented from participating in such programs because of outdated limitations set years ago,” Co-sponsor Rep. David Rouzer, R- N.C., says. “I’m pleased to join my friend and colleague, Congressman (Jimmy) Panetta, in leading this effort to ensure our farm families can continue to produce the world’s most abundant and affordable food supply.”

If passed, the GATES Act would exempt the AGI limitation for farms that get 75% of their income from farming or related activities. Those activities could include things lie agri-tourism, direct-to-customer agricultural product marketing, equipment sales or other activities approved by the Agriculture Secretary. The new exemption rule would apply to the Conservation Reserve Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program.

“Agricultural producers are on the frontlines of our conservation efforts, yet too often are unable to access federal programs designed to assist their work as good stewards of our environment,” Rep. Panetta, D-Calif., says. “I’m proud to author and introduce this bipartisan legislation that would waive certain limitations to expand the reach and effectiveness of these agriculture conservation programs.” 

In addition to Panetta and Rouzer, the GATES Act is also being co-sponsored by Reps. John Duarte, R- Calif., Yadira Caraveo, D- Colo., Jim Costa, D- Calif., Chuck Edwards, R- N.C., and Lori Michelle Chavez-DeRemer, R- Ore.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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