Many farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates across the country helped to pass the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) more than one year ago. Thanks to those efforts we now have an unprecedented level of resources farmers can use to mitigate and adapt to more extreme weather events. That level of investment is critically need at this time.
Nationally, three of every four applications for the Environmental Quality Improvement Program (EQIP) go unfunded each year. Analysis of those funding allocations reveals that two of the top ten EQIP practices funded by total dollar amount spent were related to covering and storing waste, practices that offer little in the way of conservation benefit and are part of an overall pattern of funding for industrial practices.¹
This year $1.5 Billion in new funding is available for EQIP projects across the country. This funding comes with “climate focused guardrails”. Additionally, new rules in the IRA waive a previous requirement that 50% of those funds had to be used for livestock operations. This change will allow more funding to reach non-industrial type projects that benefit small to mid-scale producers and provide real climate and community benefits.
The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is one of the best tools we have to address climate resiliency head on. Like many thing in life, there are no silver bullets when it comes to addressing problems as large as those we face with climate and what is most needed are systems level approaches. CSP is just the tool to do that by giving farmers the ability to earn payments for actively managing, maintaining and expanding conservation activities through multiple practices. $500 million in new climate specific funding will support CSP projects in the coming fiscal year helping to make up for a shortfall where, in 2022 more than 24,000 farmers and ranchers were turned away due to lack of funding.²
IRA investments in these two programs is especially critical given Congress’s inability to both pass a budget for the 2024 fiscal year and reauthorize the 2018 Farm Bill. The current partisan stalemate may limit current conservation funding to the IRA allocations described above without which, we would be facing an even larger backlog of funding requests from farmers and a greater deficit in addressing climate change.
Congress passed a continuing resolution that will keep things running through mid-November. It is our hope that members of Congress can work across the partisan divide, keep the government running and also allow them to complete work on a new farm bill. There is a frequent emphasis on voluntary solutions. Programs like EQIP and CSP offer those voluntary solutions, ones that farmers increasingly seek to utilize and are often shut out.
Our work in the days and months ahead is clear:
- Let farmers know about the current EQIP and CSP enrollment opportunities and these state ranking date deadlines; and
- Ask your members of Congress to protect IRA funding and continue to give farmers the opportunity to use the voluntary solutions they need to survive and thrive. Our communities, our food system and our climate depend on it.
- Learn more about USDA Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry efforts here.
She will be supporting sustainable agriculture and family farm organizations around the country advocate for resources to accelerate farmer adoption of climate-resilient practices. Amalie is based in Ohio where most recently she served as the Policy Director for the Ohio Ecological Food & Farming Association.
¹ Happ, Michael, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Sill Closed Out, 2023.
² NSAC, Building Resilience Through the Conservation Stewardship Program, accessed 10/9/2023.https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/building-resilience-through-the-conservation-stewardship-program/