U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow.
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow.

U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Senator Debbie Stabenow convened a Committee hearing Dec. 3 regarding water conservation. The hearing, “Farmers and Fresh Water: Voluntary Conservation to Protect our Land and Waters” examined different ways farmers and ranchers can help improve water quality in American lakes and rivers through voluntary conservation practices. Testimony by panel witnesses focused on farming’s effects on the health of the nation’s lakes and rivers, and how to avoid such externalities in the future. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Chief Jason Weller testified regarding the importance of voluntary conservation for protecting and improving our nation’s land and water resources and in particular, NRCS programs’ role in improving water quality. “The voluntary, incentives-based approach is achieving conservation goals across the nation,” said Weller.
 
Questions from many of the Senators attending the hearing focused on the Administration’s Waters of the U.S. proposal and NRCS’s role in the Interpretive Rule released earlier this year.  NAWG supports federal funding of cooperative programs for voluntary water quality projects. However, NAWG opposes any quality standard that is not scientifically based and economically viable to achieve. The Democrat Senator Stabenow will lose her chairwomanship of the committee when Republicans take up their seats as the new majority in the U.S. Senate on January 3, 2015.  The recently reelected Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas is a likely choice to chair the committee come January.