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Blog | March 28, 2023

The Agriculture Resilience Act is a Farmer-Driven Roadmap for Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Agriculture

Today, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Richard Heinrich (D-NM) re-introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act of 2023 (ARA).

The ARA is a farmer-driven, science-based roadmap for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by the year 2040. It’s focused on climate solutions and the farmers and ranchers who are at the forefront of leading those solutions on their farms. The ARA increases funding for the work that farmers and ranchers do as climate heroes—from planting cover crops and strengthening soil health, to producing and utilizing renewable energy and keeping fragile land in conservation.

This is a crucial bill that Farm Aid has supported in its past introductions. It’s especially important this year because it’s known as a “marker bill,” or a measure that a lawmaker wants included in a bigger piece of legislation—in this case, the Farm Bill, which is expected to be passed this year before its September 30th expiration date.

Why We Need a Climate-focused Farm Bill

We know that climate change directly impacts agriculture. Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change, facing changing growing seasons, more frequent and stronger extreme weather events, like droughts, wildfires and hurricanes, and increased pest and disease pressure. Climate change could jeopardize agricultural productivity, alter the nutrient content of crops, increase the price of food, and create other challenges for farmers and all of us who eat. The changing climate necessitates urgent action, and the Farm Bill is a natural place for that action.

We also know that agriculture impacts climate change. Agricultural activities contributed 9.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. We can reduce that number and sequester more carbon in the soil by providing farmers with more diverse, voluntary, incentive-based conservation options. Farmers are already environmental stewards and have a clear interest in adopting conservation practices and renewable energy systems, based on adoption rate increases in the last USDA Census of Agriculture.

Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. USDA already has a suite of research and conservation programs that we can build on. Unlike other industries, agriculture is unique in that crops can draw down carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. That makes farmers an integral part of the climate solution. This bill aims to give farmers the tools they need to become net-zero by 2040. The ARA encourages farmers to pull carbon out of the air and into their soils—removing greenhouse gases and increasing soil health. Soils containing more carbon capture and hold more water to help farmers deal with both drought and torrential rains, making agriculture as a whole more climate-resilient.

“The Agricultural Resilience Act invests in the great potential of family farmers to address our climate crisis. Farm Aid has long maintained that while farmers and ranchers are on the frontlines of climate change, they are also best-positioned to lead our country with solutions and innovations that improve soil health, sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity and much more. We look forward to working with Representative Pingree on passing the Agricultural Resilience Act.” — Farm Aid

ARA Goals and Action Plan

The ARA sets a national goal of achieving net-zero emissions in agriculture by 2040 and invests in the following areas:

Research

  • Increases funding for USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs.
  • Invests in public breed and cultivar research.

Soil Health

  • Authorizes USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that can be demonstrated to reduce risk.
  • Creates new USDA grants to state and tribal governments to improve soil health.
  • Directs USDA to establish a Soil Health and Greenhouse Gas Advisory Committee.

Farmland Preservation and Farm Viability

  • Creates a new Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) subprogram to help farmers develop and expand markets for farm products that improve soil health.
  • Increases funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program.

Pasture-based Livestock

  • Creates a new grant program to support small-scale meat and poultry processing infrastructure.
  • Establishes a new Grasslands 30 Pilot Program through which grasslands at risk of conversion to cropping or development can receive annual payments.

On-farm Renewable Energy

  • Increases funding for USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.
  • Directs USDA to research dual-use energy systems that integrate renewable energy production with crop or animal production.

Food Loss and Waste

  • Standardizes food date labeling to reduce consumer confusion.
  • Creates a new USDA program to reduce food waste in schools.

We’re excited to see the Agriculture Resilience Act reintroduced today with strong support in the House and the Senate. In fact, the bill has 24 co-sponsors on the House Side [Reps. Panetta (CA), Smith (NJ), Carson (IN), Bonamici (OR), Barragán (CA), Blumenauer (OR), Chuy Garcia (IL), Cartwright (PA), Stansbury (NM), Connolly (VA), Holmes Norton (DC), Beyer (VA), Strickland (WA), McGovern (MA), Lieu (CA), Hayes (CT), Kuster (NH), Khanna (CA), Brownley (CA), Schrier (WA), McCollum (MN), Pocan (WI), Huffman (CA) and Cohen (TN)] and 8 co-sponsors on Senate side [Senators Gillibrand (NY), Welch (VT), Smith (MN), Blumenthal (CT), Booker (NJ), Murphy (CT), Markey (MA) and Baldwin (WI)].

Farm Aid is committed to seeing ARA’s goals and values incorporated into the 2023 Farm Bill. Stay tuned for more information about this and other marker bills that will shape the 2023 Farm Bill!

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