House Farm Bill fails farmers ready to lead on climate resilience

Last week the House Agriculture Committee released its draft Farm Bill. The Climate Land Leaders Initiative joins many agriculture, food systems and hunger relief organizations in opposing the bill.

While the bill brings the remaining Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) conservation funding into the Farm Bill – a move toward more robust, long-term investment in farmer-led conservation that we have advocated for – it removes the original climate focus of the IRA dollars and spreads the dollars over more programs. The farmers and landowners in our network tell us we cannot go backward on climate in this Farm Bill, and that federal leadership like the IRA’s climate targeting is an appropriate response to the high level of farmer demand for climate-smart practices through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).

We need a Farm Bill that prioritizes climate, meets farmer demand for conservation, and grows resilient farms and rural economies.

The House Farm Bill instead prioritizes maintaining the status quo in agriculture, increasing subsidies and enhancing insurance benefits for commodity farms, making it economically unwise for these farmers to make changes toward lower emissions farming while driving consolidation in farmland ownership and failing to increase support for small and diversified farmers.

The House Farm Bill deprioritizes climate resilience. Of particular concern are:

  • Changes within the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) with the potential to shift program competitiveness and outcomes away from environmental benefits.
  • Reinstatement of the EQIP minimum livestock allocation at 50% – requiring that 50% of EQIP funds go to livestock operations, which has been shown to privilege large-scale livestock operations and perpetuate the high emissions Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) system.
  • Outsize investment in expensive precision agriculture technologies that risks diverting substantial funding from farmers implementing the diversified and perennial systems that have the greatest impacts on emissions reductions, soil and water health, and biodiversity.
  • Provisions that could prevent localities and states from establishing and enforcing regulations related to pesticide labeling and pesticide use and animal welfare standards in meat production – significantly impeding state leadership on climate action.

Also of concern, the House Farm Bill situates a new State Assistance for Soil Health program within the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). While this federal support for soil health is a timely investment, the program would reduce available funding for CSP contracts at a time when less than 30% of farmers who apply for CSP are awarded contracts. The Senate Agriculture Committee has proposed including state and tribal soil health programs in the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which we support.

Finally, over 75% of the Farm Bill funds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other programs that help low-income households afford food – critical support for families across the nation and in rural communities. The House Farm Bill would limit future updates to SNAP benefits, resulting in ~$27 billion in cuts to SNAP over a decade. The Climate Land Leaders Initiative joins allies working to end hunger and build healthy, equitable communities in opposing these cuts.

The Climate Land Leaders Initiative and individual Climate Land Leaders will continue advocating for a Farm Bill that prioritizes climate, meets farmer demand for conservation, and grows resilient farms and rural economies.

For a comprehensive discussion of the issues within the House Farm Bill draft, we encourage you to read the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s May 20th press release.