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Policy Update: House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis Releases Ag. Policy Recommendations

Today the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — authorized in January 2019 and chaired by Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) — released their new report titled “Solving the Climate Crisis: The Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy and Just America.”

The report contains policy recommendations to Congress to “achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis.” These recommendations, which include a significant section on agriculture, were built off of expert testimonies, including that of Dr. Jen Moore-Kucera, AFT’s Climate Initiative Director, in October 2019. The report recommendations have also been informed by recently proposed legislation, such as Rep. Pingree’s (D-ME) Agricultural Resilience Act (which AFT applauded).

The 30+ pages of agricultural policy recommendations cover a number of topics from regenerative agriculture to farmland protection to managing food waste, and include many recommendations on topics with which AFT is actively engaged. It is important to note that these recommendations do not represent any concrete change in policy, although they are an important step towards a cohesive climate strategy. It will be up to Congress to enact these policy recommendations in the form of legislation.

AFT has released a statement that was supportive of the Committee’s agricultural policy recommendations to:

  • Increase funding to programs that incentivize regenerative practices such as EQIP, CSP, and RCPP
  • Support public/private partnerships such as those made possible by RCPP
  • Protect farmland and increase funding for ACEP-ALE (AFT suggested that instead of requiring ALE land to have a conservation plan, that participants be fast-tracked into EQIP or CSP)
  • Support programs and policies that transition land to the next generation like the CRP-Transition Incentives      Program, or changes to the tax code that incentivize the sale of land to young, beginning, and historically disadvantaged farmers and ranchers
  • Strengthen the Farmland Protection Policy Act
  • Establish a Debt for Working Lands program to relieve FSA debt in return for land protection
  • Promote dual-use solar siting

Below is a list of the overarching goals that the Committee addressed through the recommendations, and the “building blocks” (bulleted) necessary to achieve them:

Increase Agricultural Carbon Sequestration and Resilience Through Climate Stewardship Practices

  • Prioritize and Increase Climate Mitigation and Resilience through Conservation Title Working Lands Programs
  • Improve Agricultural Land Conservation and Climate Mitigation and Resilience through Retirement and Easement Programs
  • Establish Climate Mitigation Bundles within the Conservation Stewardship Program to Increase Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Increase Financial and Technical Support for Agroforestry through Regional Agroforestry Centers
  • Set National Climate Stewardship Practice Goals on All U.S. Cropland
  • Improve Conservation Compliance Enforcement to Prevent Soil Erosion as Well as Grassland and Wetland Conversion to Cropland
  • Measure, Quantify, Evaluate, and Report on the Impact of Conservation Programs and Practices on Carbon Sequestration, Soil Health, and Greenhouse Gas Reductions
  • Support Organic Agriculture
  • Invest in Sustainable Climate-Smart Management on Private Forests
  • Revise NRCS Conservation Practice Standards to Increase Consideration of Climate Mitigation and Resilience
  • Support State Soil Health Initiatives to Increase Adoption of Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Provide Incentives for Farmers Leasing Land to Invest in Soil Health and Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Provide Lending, Credit, and Land Valuation Incentives for Improving and Maintaining Soil Health and Carbon Sequestration
  • Create a “Climate-Based Producer” Certification to Create New Markets and Incentives to Adopt Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Incentivize Climate Stewardship Practices through Crop Insurance
  • Enhance the Watershed and Flood Prevention Program

Reduce Agricultural Emissions

  • Reduce Nitrous Oxide Emissions from Synthetic Fertilizer While Increasing Cost Savings to Farmers
  • Reduce Livestock Emissions and Increase Carbon Sequestration in Grazing Lands
  • Develop Feed Additives to Reduce Livestock Emissions
  • Support Community-Scale Energy Development through Cooperative Methane Digesters to Help Small- and Mid-Scale Dairies and Other Livestock Operations Collectively Address Waste
  • Expand Investments in Rural Broadband to Support Precision Agriculture

Increase Federal Capacity to Provide Technical Assistance to Farmers

  • Increase NRCS and FSA Staff and NRCS Local Offices to Provide On-the-Ground Support and Technical Assistance to Farmers and Ranchers
  • Increase Support and Resources to Conservation Districts, Extension Services, Land-Grant Colleges, and Other Relevant Partners
  • Coordinate Within and Across Agencies and Support Public-Private Partnerships to Facilitate Broad Adoption of Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Increase Funding to USDA Research Agencies and Key Partners to Promote Innovation and Increase Agricultural Climate Benefits
  • Facilitate Farmer-to-Farmer Education and Outreach Programs to Encourage Farmers and Ranchers to Implement Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Scale Up Climate Hubs to Provide Climate Mitigation and Resilience Data, Tools, and Support to Agricultural Producers and Communities
  • Develop Seeds, Crop Varieties, and Animal Breeds Adapted to Regional Climate Change
  • Support Urban, Indoor, and Innovative Agricultural Production

Support On-Farm Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

  • Help Farmers Make Energy Efficiency Improvements and Reduce On-Farm Fuel Use
  • Build On-Farm Renewable Energy Projects While Ensuring Smart Siting to Maintain Affordable and Productive Farmland

Support the Next Generation of Farmers to Create a Fair and Equitable Food System

  • Provide Support for Beginning, Young, and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Incorporate Climate-Smart Agriculture into New Farmers Programs
  • Coordinate with Tribal Nations and Ensure they Receive Full Financial and Technical Assistance to Implement Climate Stewardship Practices
  • Engage with and Support Environmental Justice Communities on Climate Stewardship Practices, Programs, and Policies to Create a Fair and Equitable Food System

Preserve Farmland from Development

  • Help Keep Working Lands in Production
  • Prevent the Conversion of Natural Spaces, Wetlands, and Grasslands to Cropland
  • Support Local and Regional Food Systems through Federal Procurement
  • Build Local and Regional Food Systems by Expanding Market Opportunities
  • Develop Goals and Incentives to Reduce Food Waste
About the Author
Emily Liss

Federal Policy Associate

eliss@farmland.org

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