WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) today advocated for a more streamlined application process to encourage more agricultural producers to enroll in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs.

Hyde-Smith participated in another Senate Agriculture Committee hearing related to crafting a 2023 Farm Bill.  Terry Crosby, a Tallahatchie County native and chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service was a witness at the hearing titled, Farm Bill 2023: Conservation and Forestry Programs.

“The message conveyed clearly at this hearing was that USDA conservation programs must remain voluntary and that the enrollment process needs to be more streamlined and flexible,” Hyde-Smith said.  “Farmers and ranchers in Mississippi volunteer for programs, like the Conservation Stewardship Program, but more stay on the sidelines because the enrollment and reenrollment processes are headache inducing.  We need to improve the situation.”

Beyond the conservation resources approved by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, the Biden administration directed billions more to USDA conservation programs overall as part of its spending ramp-up over the past two years.

At the Wednesday hearing, Hyde-Smith also endorsed continuation and expansion of the Wood Innovation Grant program administered by the U.S. Forest Service to help the market for timber and wood products from the private working forests in Mississippi.

“Mississippi is uniquely positioned to meet growing market demand for timber and wood products,” Hyde-Smith said.  “My constituents want more to be done to support wood product markets so that our working forest owners can sell their trees at a healthy price, which will ultimately bring more prosperity to the rural communities near forested areas.”

The forestry title of the 2018 Farm Bill included assistance programs to promote wood innovation for energy use, building construction, and other purposes.

Private working forests support an industry that employs more than 46,000 Mississippians and generates more than $8 billion in sales and manufacturing from timber and wood products.