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Farm bill should expand climate-smart initiative, says AGree

The Biden administration has committed $3.1 billion to 141 pilot projects to develop climate-smart commodities and the new farm bill should fund additional projects, said the AGree farm policy initiative on Wednesday. In a set of farm bill priorities, AGree said the USDA should promote climate mitigation by looking beyond established conservation practices.

AGree divided its farm bill proposals into five areas; agriculture data and research, technical assistance, crop insurance, agricultural finance, and climate-smart commodities. It did not comment on crop subsidies or public nutrition programs in its 20-page package.

“Expand the climate-smart commodities program to fund additional projects,” said AGree, describing the USDA initiative as “an unprecedented opportunity to pilot and collect data on cutting-edge approaches that can help agriculture mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

It suggested that success of the pilots should be measured “by shifting to an outcomes-based model that prioritizes action and reflects the range of contributions that agriculture is making now and in the future to communities, the environment and food availability.” AGree also suggested aligning risk management tools to promote conservation and investing in technical assistance “so that producers can take swift action on the ground” to implement successful climate-smart practices.

The USDA’s Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities initiative is part of President Biden’s goal to cut U.S greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 and for American agriculture to be the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions. Currently agriculture accounts for about 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Republicans in Congress have questioned the administration’s authority to set up the projects and whether climate change deserves priority in the farm program.

“The farm bill represents an enormous opportunity to support farmers and the environment,” said AGree. “Implementing policy changes to support broader adoptions of agricultural conservation practices on working lands can improve farm profitability, increase resilience, reduce risk, enhance environmental performance and sequester carbon.”

In its list of farm bill proposals, AGree called for research into the benefits of conservation practices, removal of barriers in the crop insurance system to conservation, and creation of a Center for Conservation Economics, with annual funding of $10 million, “to coordinate farm financial benchmarking efforts focused on economic analysis of conservation practices across states.”

To read the AGree farm bill priorities, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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