This week, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to advocate for major investments in climate-friendly agriculture. Act now!
Congress is writing a $3.5 trillion climate and infrastructure bill, which they will pass using the budget reconciliation process. This bill could invest billions in helping farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, and adapt to a changing climate, and it could provide much-needed debt relief to the small farmers who have historically been left out of USDA programs.
Contact your legislator now! Urge them to invest in real solutions to the climate crisis that work for farmers, and to support farmers of color and others who have been left out of past farm programs.
Congress will pass this climate and infrastructure package using the budget reconciliation process, which will allow the bill to pass the Senate without a supermajority, meaning it could pass with only Democratic support. $135 billion of this total has been allocated for food and agriculture spending, and members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have until September 15 to submit final recommendations on how to allocate that funding. This Monday morning, September 13, the House Agriculture Committee finished their hearing on their proposal for parts of that budget. However, the details and dollar amounts for conservation programs and debt relief are still being negotiated. It’s up to us to make sure they choose to invest in solutions to the climate crisis that work for farmers, like on-farm renewable energy, agriculture conservation practices, resilient supply chains, and debt relief for small farms. And we need to make sure these solutions reach farmers of color and others who have been excluded from past farm programs.
If achieved, these investments would not only provide needed resources for producers in the near term but would help establish higher baseline spending levels for the 2023 Farm Bill to reflect the long-term commitment needed to meaningfully reduce agriculture’s climate emissions and transform agricultural systems.
We try not to get dramatic, but your advocacy efforts now are the best chance we see for the foreseeable future to help our agricultural system mitigate climate change and build climate resilience. It is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity — and we can’t afford to wait another generation to act on climate change.
Want more details? Read on.
$30 billion for climate-friendly agriculture and working lands conservation programs. This includes programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, and Conservation Technical Assistance. These programs enable whole-farm systems planning for greenhouse gas reduction, carbon sequestration, and climate-adaptive measures by improving soil health, increasing plant and animal diversity in production systems, and increasing permanent soil cover, including perennial crop plantings. Working lands conservation programs are one of the most direct and important ways to transform agricultural practice so that farmers can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, increase carbon sequestration, and adapt to climate impacts.
$10 billion for debt relief for small farmers, as detailed in the Relief for America’s Small Farmers Act. The provisions of the act would provide debt relief for small farmers (those with a five-year average AGI of $300,000 or less) by providing a one-time loan forgiveness of up to $250,000 for FSA direct operating loans, FSA direct farm ownership loans, and FSA emergency loans. Debt relief is an important tool for directly assisting these farmers, most of whom have not benefited from prior farmer relief programs.
$5 billion for climate-resiliency-focused sustainable and organic agriculture research. This includes funding for 1890s, 1994, Hispanic-serving, Land Grant Institutions, and other minority-serving institutions for BIPOC-focused climate transformation work, Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, climate-related seeds and breeds research, and others. Increasing the climate adaptive capacity of farms requires dedicated short- and long-term research investment.
$3 billion for value-added agriculture, on-farm renewable energy, and livestock processing. This includes funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant program, small meat processing infrastructure, and the Rural Energy for America Program. Supporting local processing supports the ecologically and socially diverse, shorter supply chains necessary for climate adaptation and offers more opportunities for sustainable livestock transitions.
You can help make these investments in our future a reality by contacting your legislators and helping spread the word. Please share this blog by using the social media links below. Thank you!