OPINION U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1-Maine, has introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (H.R. 5861), a bill that increases research and incentivizes the adoption of climate-friendly farming practices. It has the goal of creating a food and farm system that first achieves net-zero carbon emissions and then goes further to be carbon-positive by sequestering carbon dioxide in the soil.
Addressing the climate crisis facing our planet should be a priority for Congress. Healthy soil is the cornerstone of organic agriculture; organic farming will play a major role going forward in the transition to a climate-friendly food and farming system. The National Organic Coalition applauds Congresswoman Pingree for her leadership role by introducing legislation to make the necessary federal investments to enable farmers to use climate-friendly farming practices to help solve the climate crisis before it’s too late.
Science demonstrates that agriculture has a significant role to play in combating climate change, but it requires a very deliberate shift toward climate-friendly farming practices. Organic agriculture is the best example of a holistic climate-friendly system of farming. Embedded within the organic regulations are soil-health requirements that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, sequester carbon in the soil, and help mitigate the effects of the climate chaos farmers now face and will be challenged with going forward.
The Agriculture Resilience Act provides meaningful incentives for farmers to shift to the use of agricultural practices that promote soil health and carbon sequestration – such as composting, cover cropping and crop rotations that are already being implemented by certified-organic operations. In addition the bill would increase funding across U.S. Department of Agriculture programs for research and Extension to ensure farmers have access to the best science possible, on which they can implement practices on their farms to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and sequester carbon in the soil.
The National Organic Coalition is especially encouraged that the legislation calls for increased resources as well as the creation of a strategic plan to develop resource-efficient, stress-tolerant, regionally adapted livestock breeds and crop cultivars that help build agricultural resilience to climate change. They will support on-farm carbon sequestration and greenhouse-gas mitigation. Bolstering public plant and animal-breeding efforts will be key to helping farmers mitigate and adapt to changing climate. It’s a priority for the National Organic Coalition and our coalition members.
Beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers are often disproportionately impacted by climate change but are also on the front lines of solutions. The National Organic Coalition supports the provision in the bill that would increase the set-aside in the Environmental Quality Incentives and Conservation Stewardship programs to 30 percent of funding, combined, for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers. We believe the provision will help to establish a new generation of farmers and ranchers who are equipped to implement climate-friendly practices from the outset of their farming careers.
The bill also takes several important first steps to incentivize the transition to organic agriculture. It would increase the maximum annual organic-certification cost-share reimbursement from $750 to $1,000 per certification scope. It eliminates the discriminatory reduced organic-payment limit in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. The National Organic Coalition strongly endorses the legislation and will work for its enactment.