During Visit to Brown Family Farms, Bennet Discusses Water Conservation Efforts Along South Fork of the Republican River

Lamar – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet visited Brown Family Farms where he met with the Republican River Water Conservation District (RRWCD) and discussed his efforts as a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow farmers in Yuma County to use dryland farming practices on land enrolled in the Republican River Conservation Reserve Easement Program (CREP).

Senator Bennet is situated between Don Brown (Left) and Peggy Brown (Right) as he talks to members of the RRWCD at Brown Family Farms in Yuma County.

The RRWCD is focused on restoring in-stream flow on the South Fork of the Republican River. The dryland farming provision that Bennet secured in the 2018 Farm Bill is intended to help this effort––enabling farmers to conserve water and improve their bottom line at the same time. Unfortunately, USDA failed to implement this new authority, and has not allowed for dryland agriculture on any CREP land. Bennet continues to work with a bipartisan coalition of Senate colleagues to press USDA to implement the dryland agriculture authority.

“I’m grateful to Don and Peggy Brown for hosting us at their farm yesterday for a delicious dinner and thoughtful discussion,” said Bennet. “In the 2018 Farm Bill, on behalf of farmers in eastern and southern Colorado, we included a provision allowing dryland farming on CREP land when the goal of the CREP is to save water. As I heard yesterday, this change would allow farmers to conserve water and sustain their operations, and could increase enrollment in the CREP. We’ll continue to push the USDA to implement this new authority so that it works for Colorado producers.”

“We really appreciated Senator Bennet taking the time to visit the Brown Family Farm in Yuma. We felt like it was a very productive meeting,” said Don Brown, former Commissioner, Colorado Department of Agriculture. “Yuma County and surrounding countiesare known for some of the state’s most productive irrigated and dryland farm ground. We’re grateful for Senator Bennet’s continued efforts to allow farmers located in the Colorado portion of the Republican River Basin to use dryland farming practices on CREP land so that we can conserve one of our most precious resources: water.”

The goal of the Republican River CREP is primarily to reduce water consumption by voluntarily removing irrigated cropland from agricultural production, converting the land to permanent vegetative cover, including native grasses, forbs, and legumes.

In the 2018 Farm Bill, Bennet worked to provide the USDA the flexibility to allow for dryland agriculture on land enrolled in water-saving CREP agreements, like the Republican River CREP, so that farmers can keep farming.  

In August 2019, as USDA began to implement the Farm Bill, Bennet led a bipartisan coalition of Western senators in asking the USDA to immediately implement the Farm Bill’s water conservation authorities, including the new flexibility for dryland agriculture.  

In September 2019, Bennet led a letter with U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and U.S. Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO-4) explicitly requesting that the USDA take steps to implement the dryland agriculture authority by developing best management practices that meet the requirements in the Farm Bill. However, last fall the USDA made a blanket decision not to allow dryland agriculture on any CREPs. Bennet is leading the effort in Congress to push back, reverse the USDA’s decision, and ensure that the 2018 Farm Bill works for Colorado.