Farm and conservation groups applaud funding for climate agriculture

A new federal bill will make historic investments in voluntary and long underfunded conservation programs. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress on August 12, will invest an additional $20 billion in voluntary conservation programs for farmers over the next decade.

Supporters of the bill, which was cross-party passed in both the House and Senate, say it will help farmers adopt or continue climate-smart farming practices. They also say it will help the United States move toward clean energy sources.

“Agriculture has long been at the forefront of our fight against climate change…this agreement provides (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) significant additional resources to continue to lead the charge,” said the U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a July 28 statement.

climate-smart Ag

The bill includes approximately $20 billion in investments for existing USDA conservation programs, intended to target climate-smart agricultural practices.

The Environmental Quality Incentives Program will receive an additional $8.45 billion for grants that improve soil carbon storage or reduce emissions. The Conservation Stewardship Program will receive $3.25 billion for financial and technical assistance that will help farmers adopt or maintain conservation practices.

The Agricultural Conservation Easements Program will receive $1.4 billion. Another $1.3 billion will go to technical assistance for conservation. The Regional Conservation Partnership Program will receive $6.75 billion to support projects at the state, multi-state or watershed level.

Other climate-related investments include a long list of carbon sequestration and clean energy tax credits.

Debt relief

The bill repeals a section of the American Rescue Plan Act that created a $4 billion debt relief program for black and Indigenous farmers and other farmers of color, and replaces it with others debt relief programs for farmers.

The American Rescue Plan program was intended to address decades of documented discrimination against black farmers and other farmers of color at the USDA through loan programs.

But since the passage of the US bailout in 2021, several groups of white farmers have filed lawsuits challenging the debt relief, calling it unconstitutional and claiming it discriminates against them. Three federal district courts have issued preliminary injunctions to restrain the USDA from issuing payments under the program.

The new bill instead includes $2.2 billion for a program that would provide financial assistance to any farmer, rancher, or forest owner who was discriminated against in USDA agricultural loan programs before March 1. January 2021. It also includes another debt of $3.1 billion. help farmers in financial difficulty.

Rural areas

The bill will also invest approximately $14 billion in clean energy for rural communities. This includes helping rural electric cooperatives transition to clean energy, helping communities, farmers and small businesses invest in renewable energy, and infrastructure investments for household biofuels.

An additional $5 billion will go towards climate-smart forestry, forest health projects to help rural communities be more resilient against wildfires, and prioritizing owners of underserved forests, and tree planting. trees in urban communities.

Answers

Agriculture and conservation groups including the National Farmers Union, American Farmland Trust, National Corn Growers Association, National Wildlife Federation, American Forest Foundation, Environmental Working Group, Ohio Conservation Federation, Pasa Sustainable Agriculture and many others supported the bill, with several farm organizations applauding investments in voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs.

“US Department of Agriculture conservation programs are severely underfunded, preventing many interested farmers from participating each year. With additional support for these programs, farmers and ranchers can expand adoption of climate-smart practices and build more resilient operations,” Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, wrote in an Aug. Congress on the bill.

Some environmental groups have criticized provisions in the bill that provide tax incentives for aging nuclear plants and subsidize carbon capture projects. Others have argued that he doesn’t go far enough in the United States’ move toward clean energy.

“The legislation contains troubling provisions, some of which risk increasing the use of fossil fuels. Going forward, more action is needed to deepen U.S. emissions reductions, help communities become more resilient to climate change, and address the disproportionate burdens of fossil fuel pollution borne by low-income communities. income and communities of color,” Johanna Chao Kreilick, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which backed the bill, said in an Aug. 7 statement.

STAY INFORMED. REGISTER!

All agricultural news in your inbox!