WASHINGTON, D.C. (NAFB) – President Biden’s nominees for top USDA slots on farm programs and rural development took some tough questions at their Senate confirmation hearing.

The questions were pointed and timely.

Senate Ag Ranking Member John Boozman wanted to know if using crop insurance to incentivize climate-smart Ag would upend the intent and financial soundness of the program.

Biden pick for Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Robert Bonnie.

USDA’s current climate adviser, Bonnie as Farm Production and Conservation undersecretary, would oversee RMA and crop insurance, FSA and farm programs including CRP, and NRCS.

But Nebraska Republican Deb Fisher wanted to know if the Biden “30 by 30 America the Beautiful” conservation effort would be 100-percent voluntary.

And several senators asked Under Secretary nominee for Rural Development Xochitl (SOH-cheel) Torres Small about rural broadband and internet speeds.

FCC mapping will be key to gauge local needs, while former New Mexico Congresswoman Torres Small says agency coordination aided by local businesses and groups will also speed deployment.

That, as USDA’s Rural Utility Service rolls out the next installment of its Reconnect Broadband pilot later this year.