Organic Farmer and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) Introduces Climate Bill for Agriculture

On February 26, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), an ambitious piece of legislation that proposes a path to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by 2040. The bill focuses on policy goals in the following six areas: increasing research, improving soil health, protecting existing farmland, supporting pasture-based livestock systems, boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives, and reducing food waste. Specific targets in the plan include cutting emissions from ruminant livestock by at least half, restoring half of the soil carbon the country has lost, tripling on-farm renewable energy production, and eliminating seventy-five percent of food waste. 
 
How does it work?
 
The ARA is non-regulatory and instead relies on financial incentives that encourage farmers to adopt more climate-friendly practices. The bill features proposals for new federal programs, including some adapted from current California state programs, such as the Alternative Manure Management Program, which funds dry manure management practices on dairies. It also includes expanded funding for the current suite of USDA conservation programs, which already fund practices that farmers can adopt to build healthier, more carbon-rich soils. The bill aims to provide additional information to consumers by directing the USDA to clearly define labeling requirements for livestock labeling claims such as pasture raised, free range, and grass fed. The bill also takes steps to standardize food labels in an attempt to reduce food waste. 
 
What are the implications for organic agriculture?
 
The bill includes a specific benefit for certified organic operations by increasing the USDA’s maximum cost-share payment from $750 to $1,000. Additional potential benefits include more research funding in the area of climate and agriculture and increased funding for USDA conservation programs. Both of these proposals will likely be useful for organic producers, whose production practices are funded by conservation programs and will be included in climate and agriculture research. Additionally, the bill includes a grant program that provides compliance support for very small meat processors, which could benefit organic livestock producers who often struggle to find local slaughterhouses. It remains to be seen how the bill’s individual proposals will move forward as climate policy becomes a more prominent part of agriculture policy discussions. 
 
When will we see action on this bill?
 
This type of comprehensive bill may be taken up piecemeal and included in other bill packages, such as future appropriations bills or the next Farm Bill. With the House of Representative’s Select Committee on the Climate Crisis expected to release policy recommendations later this month, portions of this bill may receive more attention in the near future. The CCOF policy team will monitor this bill and keep our members informed. 
 
For more information about the Agriculture Resilience Act:
 
Stay in touch! For questions about CCOF policy or to get involved, email policy@ccof.org
 

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