Last week, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), which outlines a national roadmap for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. agriculture by the year 2040. This act is a farmer-focused, research-driven path that highlights the ways that food production and agriculture are strong solutions to climate change when properly funded and supported. To learn more, read the press release and the bill text.
This legislation was co-sponsored by 17 representatives, including Barragán (CA-44), Brownley (CA-26), Carbajal (CA-24), and Khanna (CA-17), all from California.
The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) coordinated virtual meetings with two California members of Congress, Rep. Ro Khanna and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (CA-20) to urge their co-sponsorship. This was part of a virtual “fly-in” involving 17 meetings organized by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition in April.
Representative Ro Khanna, CA-17
On April 16, CalCAN’s Jeanne Merrill, policy director, and Tessa Salzman, field organizer, along with a passionate group of our partners from Rep. Khanna’s district met with one of his staff. Khanna is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the chair of the Oversight Subcommittee on Environment. While Rep. Khanna represents an urban district that encompasses Silicon Valley, he understands the connection between rural agriculture and urban environments. As his staffer conveyed, Khanna thinks it is important to spread the wealth created in his district to the Central Valley and other parts of the state through mechanisms like the research, technical assistance, and funding outlined in the ARA.
All five constituents in the meeting highlighted how specific provisions in the ARA would amplify and expedite their current efforts in Santa Clara County, which range from agricultural resilience and land conservation efforts to workforce development and local marketing support programs.
Rep. Khanna co-sponsored the ARA last year and again this year.
Representative Jimmy Panetta, CA-20
On April 21, CalCAN secured a meeting with Rep. Panetta, whose district encompasses agricultural communities on the Central Coast, including Monterey and Santa Cruz. Two CalCAN coalition organizations who serve farmers in District 20 along with Patricia Rodriguez, an organic strawberry farmer, shared their perspectives and stories to highlight why the ARA is an essential foundation for a transition toward a climate-smart agricultural system. Rodriguez described the challenges she faced as a young farmer related to land access and her transition from conventional to organic agriculture 30 years ago and how the expansion of the organic certification cost-share program outlined in the ARA will ease the burden for current and future farmers.
While Panetta has not yet co-sponsored the ARA, he is supportive of most of its provisions and he particularly supports expanding funding for existing, oversubscribed federal conservation programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). His main concern was to ensure that the bill’s stated goal of maintaining year-round cover on 75 percent of agricultural acreage (a practice that increases soil carbon sequestration) will not harm the specialty crop growers in his district. We emphasized that the breadth and depth of the provisions laid out in the ARA are designed specifically to support farmers in scaling up practices such as cover cropping, and not to make their work more difficult.
Take Action Today!
If you want to support the Agriculture Resilience Act, you can call your representatives today to voice your support and urge them to co-sponsor. Look them up on the House of Representatives website.
Thanks to our fabulous partners for their expertise and passion during our meetings:
Marc Landgraf, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority
Michael Meehan, County of Santa Clara
Fred Sconberg, Bay Area Community Colleges
Sibella Kraus, Sustainable Agriculture Education
Sheila Barry, UC Cooperative Extension, Santa Clara County Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor
Rebekah Weber, CCOF
Reggie Knox, California FarmLink
Patricia Rodriguez, Rodriguez Farms
This article was written by Tessa Salzman.
Tessa Salzman is the field organizer at CalCAN. CalCAN is a statewide coalition that advances policy to realize the powerful climate solutions offered by sustainable and organic agriculture. We represent a statewide network of sustainable farmers and ranchers and allied organizations, agricultural professionals, scientists, and advocates.