CalCAN Endorses Newly Introduced Federal Climate & Agriculture Bill

Posted on Wednesday, February 26th, 2020 by Renata Brillinger

Agriculture Resilience Act Offers California Farmers Climate Change Solutions

Today, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R. 5861), which addresses the role of agriculture in combating climate change with a comprehensive suite of practical, science-based, farmer-driven policy solutions. CalCAN endorses this bill and commends Rep. Pingree’s leadership.

“Agriculture has so much to offer—and much at stake—when it comes to turning our farms into carbon sinks and making our food system more secure,” said Jeanne Merrill, CalCAN Policy Director. “The Agriculture Resilience Act will provide the resources needed to turn agricultural solutions to climate change into wins for farmers, our health and the environment.”

Importantly, the Agriculture Resilience Act sets out a national goal for agriculture sector of net zero emissions by no later than 2040, as well as a number of strategies to achieve it by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, increasing on-farm renewable energy and reducing food waste. The bill takes a comprehensive approach to the food and farming system and would make investments in a suite of interrelated programs to fund research, technical assistance, financial incentives, farmland conservation, and ensure farm viability.

CalCAN is also glad to see that key tenets of this bill are fully in line with the recommendations of a recent climate report, Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge, that CalCAN helped develop through our membership in the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“Farmers across the country—already struggling to stay in business—are dealing with new climate-related challenges such as weirder weather, new pests, floods, wildfires, and hotter and drier conditions,” said George Davis of Porter Creek Winery in Healdsburg, and Vice-President of the National Farmers Union. “This bill lays out a much-needed and long overdue plan for supporting farmers and ranchers in the face of climate change.”

The bill focuses on these six important policy areas:

  1. Increasing Research: The ARA would ensure existing agriculture research programs prioritize climate change research, increase funding for USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs, support public breed and cultivar research, and create a new SARE Agricultural and Food System Resilience Initiative for farmer and rancher research and demonstration grants.
  2. Improving Soil Health: The ARA would create a new soil health grant program for state and tribal governments, authorize USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that reduce risk, expand the National Agroforestry Center by authorizing three additional regional centers, and explore new ways to reward farmers such as future carbon markets or tax incentives for soil carbon sequestration.
  3. Protecting existing farmland: ARA would increase funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program, which Pingree championed in the 2018 Farm Bill, and create a new subprogram for farm viability and local climate resilience centers to help farmers reach new markets. The bill would also increase funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program and amend the tax code to exclude from gross income the gain from the sale of 1) permanent conservation easements and 2) farm property to beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran and young farmers.
  4. Supporting pasture-based livestock systems: The ARA would create a new alternative manure management program to support an array of livestock methane management strategies, a new grant program to help very small meat processors cover the costs associated with meeting federal inspection guidelines, and a Grasslands 30 pilot program within the Conservation Reserve Program to enroll grassland that is exiting CRP or at risk of conversion.
  5. Boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives: The ARA would increase funding for the Rural Energy for America Program, direct USDA to study dual-use renewable energy and cropping or livestock systems, and move the AgSTAR program to NRCS to provide technical assistance to farmers interested in reducing methane emissions through anaerobic digestion.
  6. Reducing food waste: The ARA would standardize food date labels to reduce consumer confusion, create a new USDA program to reduce food waste in schools, and increase federal support for composting and anaerobic digestion food waste-to-energy projects.

Read more about the bill here.

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