The Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is beginning to use a new tool this week to help staff implement conservation programs more smoothly. The tool, known as the Conservation Assessment Ranking Tool (CART) is designed to help NRCS staff effectively implement 2018 Farm Bill programs.

“The goal is to have one center piece of technology, where one of our employees can work hand-in-hand with the producer,” NRCS Chief Lohr told a House Agriculture Subcommittee Tuesday.

According to USDA, the program streamlines methodologies by utilizing national and local geospatial data, address resource concern questions, determine program impact points, and configure funding pools able to be modified to address local needs. 

House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., blasted Lohr during the hearing, saying the tool will just create more bureaucracy.

“I don’t see that it is going to do any good other than give people a chance to come in and lobby your department — come up with more damn crazy regulations that are going to screw things up,” Peterson said. Peterson worries the program will be like what happened with the Farm Service Agency’s Environmental Benefits Index for the Conservation Reserve Program. He noted when that was developed, groups came in to lobby for crop seed mixes to be planted on environmentally sensitive land, which ended up costing some $600 an acre.

Lohr defended the administration saying the tool was designed to help staff determine the best suited assistance for the farmer’s operation. He said he would report back to Peterson on progress of the program after this week.

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