Congresswoman Pingree Introduces the Agriculture Resilience Act to Promote Farmer-Driven Climate Solutions
Legislation Sets Goal of Reaching Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions in U.S. Agriculture by 2040
WASHINGTON, DC—Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) today introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), comprehensive legislation that sets a bold vision of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by the year 2040.
“Farming has always been a risky business, but unpredictable, extreme weather patterns are creating immense challenges that threaten our nation’s food production and jeopardize the livelihood of American farmers,” said Congresswoman Pingree, an organic farmer of more than 40 years. “Last year, farmers were unable to plant 19.6 million acres of crops due to record-breaking rainfall. We must be proactive to keep farmers on the land and in business.”
“The Agriculture Resilience Act is designed as a roadmap to sequester more carbon in the soil and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by supporting farmers where they are. We need to empower farmers with the best available science and provide a range of conservation tools, because what works for one farmer in Maine may not work for another in Iowa or Georgia,” Congresswoman Pingree said of her bill. “I have set an ambitious but achievable goal: to reduce agricultural emissions by 50% before 2030 and make this segment of our economy net-zero by 2040. Challenges of this scale demand bold solutions and, unlike other industries, agriculture has a unique opportunity to draw down massive amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.”
Currently, agricultural activities contribute 8.4% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. To reach net-zero agricultural emissions within the next 20 years, the ARA focuses on six concrete policy areas and offers solutions rooted in science that are farmer-driven. These goals include:
- Increasing Research: The ARA would ensure existing agriculture research programs prioritize climate change research, increase funding for USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs, support public breed and cultivar research, and create a new SARE Agricultural and Food System Resilience Initiative for farmer and rancher research and demonstration grants.
- Improving Soil Health: The ARA would create a new soil health grant program for state and tribal governments, authorize USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that reduce risk, expand the National Agroforestry Center by authorizing three additional regional centers, and explore new ways to reward farmers such as future carbon markets or tax incentives for soil carbon sequestration.
- Protecting existing farmland: ARA would increase funding for the Local Agriculture Market Program, which Pingree championed in the 2018 Farm Bill, and create a new subprogram for farm viability and local climate resilience centers to help farmers reach new markets. The bill would also increase funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program and amend the tax code to exclude from gross income the gain from the sale of 1) permanent conservation easements and 2) farm property to beginning, socially disadvantaged, veteran and young farmers.
- Supporting pasture-based livestock systems: The ARA would create a new alternative manure management program to support an array of livestock methane management strategies, a new grant program to help very small meat processors cover the costs associated with meeting federal inspection guidelines, and a Grasslands 30 pilot program within the Conservation Reserve Program to enroll grassland that is exiting CRP or at risk of conversion.
- Boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives: The ARA would increase funding for the Rural Energy for America Program, direct USDA to study dual-use renewable energy and cropping or livestock systems, and move the AgSTAR program to NRCS to provide technical assistance to farmers interested in reducing methane emissions through anaerobic digestion.
- Reducing food waste: The ARA would standardize food date labels to reduce consumer confusion, create a new USDA program to reduce food waste in schools, and increase federal support for composting and anaerobic digestion food waste-to-energy projects.
Last week, the USDA announced its “Agriculture Innovation Agenda” which aims to cut American agricultural emissions in half by 2050. Pingree’s bill would help USDA reach this goal more expeditiously by expanding the agency’s authority and increasing funding for key USDA programs.
At the outset of the 116th Congress, House leadership established the nation’s first-ever Select Committee on the Climate Crisis to prioritize the greatest challenge facing the health, environment, economy, and future of our planet. The Committee was authorized by House Resolution 6 to publish a set of public recommendations by March 31, 2020. The Select Committee’s recommendations are expected to set broad climate goals and Pingree’s Agriculture Resilience Act could serve as the Committee’s model for recognizing agriculture as a key part of the climate solution.
Pingree has been an organic farmer since the 1970s and is a recognized national policy leader on sustainable food and farming. She was the 2017 recipient of the James Beard Leadership Award for her advocacy to make sustainable food more accessible to all Americans. In the spring of 2018, Pingree launched Congress’s first-ever Bipartisan Food Recovery Caucus. She is a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.
READ WHAT ORGANIZATIONS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE ARA.