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Policy Update: AFT Submits Public Comment on Climate-Smart Ag

On Thursday, April 29, AFT submitted a public comment to USDA, recommending actions the Department could take to increase agriculture’s role in fighting climate change. This request for comment was part of President Biden’s January “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” which directed USDA to collect stakeholder input on a climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategy. AFT’s comment was one of over 8,000 submitted, and represents the most comprehensive statement of AFT’s climate policy positions and goals to date.

The comment made recommendations to USDA on how to bolster existing efforts to make farmers and ranchers part of the climate solution, and also included recommendations on new concepts such as the Carbon Bank. Overall, AFT’s comments emphasized that the most efficient way to achieve on-the-ground practices would be to shore up existing conservation programs – such as EQIP and CSP – and increase associated technical assistance. The comment also suggested increasing farmland protection through various methods, ramping up research and quantification efforts, ensuring equitable access to programs, building additional partnerships, and prioritizing program funding for the most effective conservation practices.

Below is an outline of AFT’s overarching recommendations, organized by the questions posed by USDA:

How can USDA leverage existing policies and programs to encourage voluntary adoption of agricultural practices that sequester carbon, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and ensure resiliency to climate change?

  • Increase Funding for Existing NRCS Conservation Programs and Prioritize Climate-Smart Practices
  • Bolster ACEP-ALE to Protect Working Lands from Development
  • Strengthen the Farmland Protection Policy Act to Mitigate the Federal Government’s Role in the Conversion of Agricultural Land
  • Increase NRCS Technical Assistance, Outreach, and Education

What new strategies should USDA explore to encourage voluntary adoption of climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices?

  • Establish a Carbon Bank within USDA
  • Create a Debt for Working Lands Program to Protect Farmland from Development
  • Implement a USDA Cover Crop Initiative

How can partners and stakeholders, including State, local and Tribal governments and the private sector, work with USDA in advancing climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices?

  • Update RCPP Data Sharing Requirements to Improve Climate and Conservation Outcomes

How can USDA help support emerging markets for carbon and greenhouse gases where agriculture and forestry can supply carbon benefits?

  • Develop Guidance to Inform Private Carbon Markets

What data, tools, and research are needed for USDA to effectively carry out climate-smart agriculture and forestry strategies?

  • Establish a Nationwide Dataset for Calibrating and Validating Outcomes Quantification Tools
  • Research Crop Insurance and Risk Management’s Role in Incentivizing and Disincentivizing Climate-Smart Practices
  • Support Research on Improved Crop Varieties and Best Management Practices
  • Examine the Best Ways to Encourage Adoption of Climate-Smart Practices

How can USDA support adoption and production of other renewable energy technologies in rural America, such as renewable natural gas from livestock, biomass power, solar, and wind?

  • Adopt Solar Siting Policies to Avoid Unnecessary Development of Agricultural Land

How should USDA utilize programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities to decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change?

  • Increase Existing Support for USDA Conservation and Disaster Programs to Mitigate Wildfires

How can USDA ensure that programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities used to advance climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices are available to all landowners, producers, and communities?

  • Maximize Use of Alternative Rules to Allow Socially Disadvantaged Farmers to Take Advantage of Existing Programs

How can USDA provide technical assistance, outreach, and other assistance necessary to ensure that all producers, landowners, and communities can participate in USDA programs, funding, and other authorities related to climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices?

  • Increase Culturally-Sensitive Technical Assistance and Ensure an Accessible Application Process
  • Develop Strong Partnerships with Community Organizations and Build Their Capacity

How can USDA provide technical assistance, outreach, and other assistance necessary to ensure that all producers, landowners, and communities can participate in USDA programs, funding, and other authorities related to climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices?

  • Create an Office of Small Farms to Represent Lower-Acreage Operations Throughout USDA
  • Ensure USDA Programs and Practices Support Women in Adopting Climate-Smart Practices
About the Author
Emily Liss

Federal Policy Associate

eliss@farmland.org

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