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House task force pushes for climate action in 2023 farm bill

A House task force on climate and agriculture, led by Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine and Kim Schrier of Washington State, released a report Thursday recommending policies for the 2023 farm bill to make it as climate-friendly as possible.

“Today we’ve outlined a blueprint to advance climate-smart agriculture in the next farm bill, and as a member of the House Agriculture Committee, I hope to push this plan over the finish line,” said Pingree in a statement.

“Since my earliest days in Congress, I have introduced solutions to create a more sustainable food system,” she said. “The next farm bill represents a significant moment for Congress to deliver the urgent resources needed to support farmers dealing with extreme weather and incentivize America’s agriculture sector to take action in the fight against climate change.”

The report from the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition Climate and Agriculture Task Force comes as Republicans prepare to take control in the House in 2023. Republican lawmakers are already questioning the Biden administration’s plans to advance climate-smart agricultural programs. While acknowledging this opposition, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said earlier this week that climate change will continue to be a top priority for the USDA.

The recommendations in the task force report cover a number of broad areas: soil health and carbon sequestration; food waste; rural electrification; climate resilience; research; and support for small, rural, beginning, and organic farms. It also recommends measures for forest management and wildfire prevention.

For soil health and carbon farming, the recommendations include expanding Natural Resource Conservation Service programs that target soil health; making carbon sequestration and reductions in greenhouse gases a purpose of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program; and adding soil health and emissions reductions to the criteria for participating in the Conservation Stewardship Program.

The proposals also highlight the use of soil amendments, such as biochar, which “may provide enhanced soil carbon storage, reduced soil methane and nitrous oxide emissions, increased soil water-holding capacity, and improved crop yields.”

The report also recommends funding the removal of the contaminant PFAS from farmland and increased research on PFAS remediation.

It also recommends expanding food waste reduction programs; supporting local efforts at food composting; and providing incentives for using renewable energy on farms, saying “on-farm electrification with renewable energy resources can drive a 44-70 percent decrease in the industry’s carbon footprint.” It recommends the increased use of electric tractors and expanding the rural electric grid.

“As we work on the 2023 farm bill, it’s critical that farmers and producers have a seat at the table, especially as we discuss climate-smart practices,” said Schrier.

The full report can be found here.

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