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Build Back Better good for ag

Build Back Better good for ag

Editor’s note: The U.S. House approved Nov. 19 its version of the “Build Back Better Act 220-213."

OPINION  The most updated framework of the Build Back Better Act includes more than $27 billion for climate-smart agriculture and farm-bill conservation programs. That would represent the largest investment in conservation since the Dust Bowl, and would provide a transformative level of support to farmers, ranchers, wildlife and the climate.

Aviva Glaser, senior director of agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation, said, “The Build Back Better Act’s proposal to invest $27.15 billion in on-farm conservation and (U.S. Department of Agriculture) conservation programs underscores the central role that farmers, ranchers and private forest owners play in addressing the climate crisis. This transformative investment into popular and effective USDA conservation programs and practices will create jobs, support rural communities, reduce emissions, and create benefits for soil, water and wildlife. … The Build Back Better Act invests in agriculture conservation and provides the funding needed to ensure that farmers, ranchers, and private forest owners are empowered to be a critical part of the climate solution.”

Holly Rippon-Butler, National Young Farmers land-campaign director, said, “Land-access challenges are preventing a new generation from taking on the important task of growing food for our country. Importantly, $200 million is included in the (Build Back Better Act) to help with land-ownership challenges – such as heirs’ property, fractionated land and supporting young farmers in accessing land. We look forward to working with the USDA on creative ways to use this investment to secure affordable, equitable access to land for a next generation of farmers.”

Vanessa Garcia Polanco, federal policy director of National Young Farmers, said, “The Build Back Better Act includes once-in-a-generation investments in conservation programs, positioning farmers and climate-smart agriculture practices as key strategies to mitigate climate change and build resiliency. Investments in conservation and climate resilience such as (the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program), as well as investments in programs beyond the farm gate like affordable college, immigration, and farmworker health and safety are essential to the functioning of our agriculture system. We applaud the inclusion of $200 million for farm workers and food worker relief.”

Duane Hovorka, agriculture-program director of the Izaak Walton League of America, said, “Climate-friendly farm and ranch practices can provide benefits for our soil, air, woods, waters and wildlife. But they often require an investment of money, time and expertise. As Congress debates new investments in infrastructure and climate-change mitigation, agriculture conservation provides an opportunity too important to pass up.”

Tim Fink, policy director of the American Farmland Trust, said, “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to increase conservation funding. We believe that agricultural land is essential infrastructure for the future of our nation, just as much as any road or bridge, and that any infrastructure improvements should include incentives for private conservation.”

Ben Lilliston, director of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said, “It’s a really unique opportunity because very rarely do you get a chance to do that outside of the farm bill. There would be immediate climate benefits.”

Andrew Earl, director of Private Lands Conservation, TRCP, said, “These core voluntary-incentive programs are ripe for investment, particularly as we evaluate how to enhance climate resilience through habitat improvements and meet our land-conservation goals in the years to come.”

Scott Faber, SVP of the Environmental Working Group, said, “The budget-reconciliation bill provides a once-in-a-generation chance to make better farmland stewardship, not unlimited subsidies, our top priority. Farmland-conservation practices that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and store carbon also have the added benefit of reducing the amount of farm pollution that is fouling our drinking water.”

Ted Koch, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership, said, “Over a century ago President Theodore Roosevelt said, ‘There can be no greater issue than conservation in this country.’ This statement is doubly true today. Demonstrating our nation’s leadership in addressing climate change by ramping up climate-smart agriculture and conservation assistance to farm, ranch and forest communities holds multiple benefits. The North American Grouse Partnership fully backs the historic Build Back Better Act.”

Aria McLauchlan, co-founder and executive director of Land Core, said, “The inclusion of $27 billion for voluntary conservation programs in the Build Back Better Act marks a historic acknowledgment of the importance of U.S. agricultural producers’ positive role in building resilience and addressing our climate challenges. This investment would help to lay the foundation for rebuilding our nation’s soils, securing our food supply, mitigating floods and drought, and sequestering carbon.”

Lori Faeth, senior director of government relations for the Land Trust Alliance, said, “The Build Back Better Act provides critical funding for conservation programs that will protect natural and working lands while making our country more resilient to the impacts of climate change. These historic investments are good for our environment, our communities, our health and our economy. On behalf of the Land Trust Alliance and its nearly 1,000 member land trusts, I call on the Senate to pass this historic legislation that includes these additional investments.

Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, said, “If we want a secure, healthy and affordable food supply, clean water, wildlife habitat and the many other essential values working lands provide, we need to do a better job of partnering and investing with farmers and ranchers. Farm-bill conservation programs remain critically oversubscribed in the face of mounting challenges to producers’ bottom line and our ecosystems. The Build Back Better Act’s agriculture-conservation provisions are designed to help producers keep these lands intact, healthy and productive for the benefit of us all. With a national conversation on the future of conservation as the backdrop, Congress should act swiftly to enact the Build Back Better Act.”

Marcia DeLonge, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists Food and Environment Program, said, “Build Back Better will make our food system more resilient, sustainable and equitable, while helping the United States meet climate goals to reduce heat-trapping emissions and transition to a net-zero economy. These investments are also critical to meet the needs of farmers and ranchers at a time when many USDA conservation and research programs are oversubscribed, underfunded and often overlook underserved communities. Over the past decade programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program have had to turn away more than half of applicants. And we continue to underinvest in research led by Black, Indigenous and people of color, and support for those most affected by climate change, namely communities of color and frontline communities.

“Our food and farm system has an essential role to play in confronting the climate crisis. By fully investing in critical agricultural conservation, research and equity programs, Congress can make U.S. agriculture a global leader in climate-resilient agriculture while giving farmers, ranchers and their partners the tools they need to adapt to a changing climate.”

Wes King, senior policy specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, “Conservation programs that should be a central tool in our efforts to address the climate crisis are oversubscribed and already forced to turn away eligible producers.”

Eric Deeble, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, “It is potentially transformative, and the emphasis on investments in conservation programs centered on mitigating climate change is a game-changer.”

Madeleine Foote, deputy legislative director for the League of Conservation Voters, said, “Climate-smart agricultural investments are absolutely necessary to tackle the climate crisis. Agricultural-conservation programs are consistently oversubscribed, and the Build Back Better Act is a huge opportunity for Congress to allow farmers and ranchers to be part of the climate solution.”

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, the American Sustainable Business Council, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and the Rural Coalition stated, “We appreciate your leadership and recognition of the deep connections between agriculture, climate change, and the overarching importance of equity. We strongly support adoption of a robust reconciliation package that advances climate, economic and equity goals together. 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.”

Zack Pistora, environmental lobbyist for the Kansas Chapter of Sierra Club, said, “It would be highly beneficial to bulk up these programs and make them more widely accessible, especially to young farmers and socially disadvantaged farmers who have been traditionally underserved by government programs.”

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