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Green, farm groups offer their plan for conservation spending in reconciliation bill

Congress should provide $30 billion for climate-friendly agricultural practices and organic production in the upcoming reconciliation bill, said five dozen farm, environmental, and food groups in a letter to Democratic leaders on Wednesday. The USDA would see a $135 billion increase in spending over 10 years under the budget resolution that set the so-called reconciliation process in motion.

“We will have robust investment” in land stewardship in the reconciliation bill, Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow told reporters. She declined to attach a price tag to her forecast but said, “It will be enough to move forward in a robust way.” Earlier this year, she advocated a $50 billion increase over 10 years for conservation programs.

In their letter, the groups, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters, and the National Family Farm Coalition, suggested uses for $48 billion of the money. At a minimum, they said, $30 billion should go to conservation programs with a focus on “climate-friendly agricultural practices and organic production.”

They also backed $10 billion for debt relief “to stabilize operations of producers who have not received a fair share of aid from recent federal support programs”; $5 billion for sustainable and organic agriculture research; and $3 billion for value-added agriculture, rural renewable energy, and infrastructure for local processing of crops and livestock.

“We strongly support adoption of a robust reconciliation package that advances climate, economic, and equity goals together,” said the letter. “In particular, to build a food system that is resilient enough to feed us in a changing climate, we must dramatically increase public investments in sustainable farming and farming communities — including those who have been, and continue to be, underserved by U.S. farm policy.”

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