The biggest climate bill the US has ever passed also touches on food and agriculture. Multiple areas of conservation, food protection and financial isolation for at-risk farmers are integrated into climate-friendly agricultural practices.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) contains many provisions within the framework Senate bill and includes a subset of almost 38 billion dollars for conservation agriculture, credit, renewable energy and forestry.
Among others, the right will support innovative, cost-effective ways to measure and verify climate benefits, including through the USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Conservation Conservation Program, Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and Conservation Technical Assistance . Here are some highlights.
Nature protection program
The largest recipient of the IRA is the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), which has a total of $3.25 billion in new funding for fiscal years 2023-2026. For years, demand from farmers for CSP grants has outstripped congressional spending available for it. The IRA is channeling this new funding with a climate-focused ‘fog’. Funds may be spent on “one or more conservation agriculture practices, improvements, or packages that, according to the USDA, directly improve soil carbon, reduce nitrogen loss, or reduce, capture, avoid, or sequester emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, or of nitrous oxide associated with agricultural production”.
IRA Food and Agriculture Funding clearly extends support to organic producers and those converting to organic farming under the CSP until 2031. It helps farmers cover the cost of implementing practices like cover crops to keep the soil and on-site fertilization during the winter, buffer strips to prevent severe soil erosion from storms, and hedgerows as habitat for wild bees and other beneficial insects.
Karen Perry Stillerman, Associate Director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says that these IRA investments are “the largest since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.”
They will help more farmers plant perennials and cover crops, diversify crop rotations, and use other practices that science has shown can store carbon in the soil and make farmland more hilly and thus more resilient to floods and droughts. Importantly, the funding will put “harder numbers on what we already know about the benefits of healthy, carbon-rich soil” as part of the Carbon Sequestration and Emissions Quantification Program.
It focuses on climate at a time when climate impacts on the nation’s farms and communities, such as the drought in California’s Central Valley and the devastating flood in Kentucky, “are becoming dire,” adds Perry Stillerman.
Socially disadvantaged peasants
Wired noted the last-minute efforts of Democratic Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Raphael Warnock of Georgia to provide $3.1 billion in aid to farmers whose “agricultural operations are at financial risk.” The benefit is a set of USDA-backed loans and $2.2 billion in financial aid aimed at farmers who can show they have been “discriminated against” in accessing USDA farm loan programs. These provisions are in response to a long history of racism at USDA.
The denial of federal benefits to black farmers, even after the passage of the civil rights laws of the 1960s, shows how “racism circulated through federal, state, and district offices of the USDA, and employees at all levels bent civil rights laws and undermined government programs are fine. to punish black farmers,” the scientist believes Pete Daniel.
The USDA is a source of grants, loans, information and access to government resources. According to A Politics The agency’s study issued loans to only 37% of black applicants in 2020 under one program that helps farmers pay for land, equipment and repairs, but accepted 71% of applications from white farmers.
In the 2021 Saving America Plan, Congress attempted to address some of this injustice by providing debt relief to thousands of farmers of color with outstanding USDA-backed loans. However, the loan forgiveness plan for farmers of color is still tied up in lawsuits filed by white farmers. But even if the action survives legal challenges, the USDA will still face years of systemic discriminatory policies and processes and will have to convince black farmers and their advocates that change is coming.
“I am thrilled that the Inflation Reduction Act clarifies and redirects this funding from the American Rescue Plan,” said Senator Booker Mother Jones. “By giving the USDA the authority to modify the debt of distressed borrowers, we will keep family farmers across the country on their farms. For those farmers, especially black farmers, who have suffered from discrimination by the USDA, this legislation begins the process of righting those wrongs.”
Environmental Quality Stimulation Program
$8.45 billion was earmarked for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). technical and financial support for food and agriculture producers implementing conservation practices. The IRA says EQIP proposals that use “dietary and feeding management to reduce ruminant gut methane emissions” should be prioritized for funding. Climate-smart agriculture initiatives to encourage farmers to adopt nutrient management measures are part of the framework. The objective is to ensure that both the production and environmental goals of clean water, clean air and healthy soils are met on the farm.
Friends of the Earth, however, says that a significant portion of EQIP funds support practices that do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fund highly polluting concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) that are actively exacerbating the climate crisis. Meanwhile, thousands of farmers who claim money for preferential practices are said to be turned down.
Final thoughts on IRA, food and agriculture
Although the IRA is less than a month old, work is already underway to initiate transformative investments with the long-term goal of creating a more equitable and climate-resilient food and farming system.
Farm groups, including the National Farmers Union and the National Young Farmers Coalition, supported the IRA. He did the same National Coalition of Sustainable Agriculture, which is considering whether the USDA will begin a formal rulemaking process or go in a different direction. The coalition “strongly believes that the implementation of the IRA must be transparent, inclusive and ultimately lead to increased investment in solutions that support both climate mitigation and adaptation.”
Importantly, less than 5% of this Food and Agriculture IRA funding will go toward changing agricultural practices around reducing agricultural emissions, which currently account for 11% of US greenhouse gas emissions. The costs also ignore the biggest climate culprit in agriculture: meat and dairy production.
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