On April 22, 2021, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), alongside Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) and 16 of her House colleagues reintroduced the bicameral Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA).
This bold, comprehensive legislation sets a roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions from agriculture by 2040 and empowers farmers with the tools and resources needed to improve soil health, sequester carbon, reduce emissions, enhance their resilience, and tap into new market opportunities.
Pingree first introduced the legislation in the 116th Congress, where the ARA served as the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’ model for recognizing agriculture as a part of the climate solution, but resilience wasn’t part of the Trump administration’s agenda.
“Extreme weather events are upending farmers’ bottom lines, threatening their businesses and risking the future of our food supply. Congress must work to keep farmers on their land, and we must work to empower those farmers to implement climate-smart practices that reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase their resilience in the face of climate change,” said Congresswoman Pingree.
“The Agriculture Resilience Act focuses on solutions that are farmer-driven in order to reach net-zero emissions in this sector by 2040. Climate change deserves a whole-of-government approach, and I’m looking forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure farmers have a seat at the table as we work to address the climate crisis,” she added.
“New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers, whose livelihoods depend on the health of our land and water, are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and know all too well the effects that extreme weather events can have on their operations. Through regenerative agriculture and soil management, our producers can simultaneously make their land more resilient and play a large role in the fight against climate change,” said Senator Heinrich.
“I’m proud to join Congresswoman Pingree, an organic farmer of more than 40 years, to introduce the Agriculture Resilience Act, which sets a national goal of achieving net-zero emissions in agriculture by 2040 through farmer-led, science-based initiatives. This legislation will make ambitious investments to help our farmers and ranchers improve soil health, expand conservation programs, increase research into climate agricultural practices, and support on-farm renewable energy projects,” he explained.
In 2019, agricultural activities contributed 9.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. To reach net-zero agricultural emissions by 2040, the ARA offers farmer-driven solutions rooted in science which build upon a suite of existing USDA research and conservation programs. The ARA would empower farmers by:
Increasing USDA Research & Regional Climate Hubs
- Increases funding for USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs.
- Invests in public breed and cultivar research.
Improving Soil Health
- Authorizes USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that can be demonstrated to reduce risk.
- Creates new USDA grants to state and tribal governments to improve soil health. Directs USDA to establish a Soil Health and Greenhouse Gas Advisory Committee.
Protecting existing farmland
- Creates a new Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) subprogram to help farmers develop and expand markets for farm products that improve soil health.
- Increases funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program.
Supporting pasture-based livestock systems
- Creates a new grant program to support small-scale meat and poultry processing infrastructure.
- Establishes a new Grasslands 30 Pilot Program through which grasslands at risk of conversion to cropping or development can receive annual payments.
Boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives
- Increases funding for USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.
- Directs USDA to research dual-use energy systems that integrate renewable energy production with crop or animal production.
Reducing food waste
- Standardizes food date labeling to reduce consumer confusion.
- Creates a new USDA program to reduce food waste in schools.
The reintroduced ARA includes an expanded grant program to fund the development and implementation for state and tribal soil health plans; bolsters the Conservation Stewardship Program, encourages the transition from annual to perennial crop production; increases support for the Organic Cost Share program; creates a new Processing Resilience Grant Program for small meat and poultry processors; and places a priority on underserved producers to advance equity.
The legislation is cosponsored by Reps. Barragán, Blumenauer, Brownley, Carbajal, Cohen, Connolly, Hayes, Khanna, Kuster, McGovern, Norton, Quigley, Raskin, Ryan, Adam Smith, Spanberger, and Welch.
Pingree has been an organic farmer since the 1970’s 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. In January 2021, she was named Chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies.
Photo courtesy of Modern Farmer.