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What they’re saying about climate, agriculture and research in the Build Back Better Budget

WASHINGTON - The Build Back Better Budget contains essential investments in the ability of farmers, ranchers, and rural communities to lead in addressing the climate crisis, say hundreds of groups, businesses and individuals in letters to House and Senate leadership. The letters in support of the reconciliation package’s work on climate-smart agriculture and research point to the impact of funding for programs that enable agricultural producers to scale up climate-smart practices on their operations; aid in clean energy production and energy efficiency for rural businesses; and fund critical agricultural climate research in every state.

“These hundreds of stakeholders represent many of the leaders and communities most affected by the climate crisis, but also those best positioned to lead,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, and the architect of the incentives and programs for agriculture, forestry, research, and rural communities in the reconciliation package. “What these important validators say is that we simply cannot make progress in our fight against the climate crisis without more resources to help clean our air, store carbon in our soil, safeguard our water, conserve energy, and fund the next generation of innovations.”

“A number of key proposed investments will help our lands, communities and states prepare for, and ideally avoid, the frequency and severity of future disastrous climate impacts that our states have faced in recent years,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Oregon Governor Kate Brown, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak and New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Specifically we would draw your attention to and call upon you to support those items currently included in the House Agriculture Committee mark, and proposed by the Senate Agriculture Committee relating to forestry, climate smart agriculture, research and clean energy.”

“Climate change is intensifying the wildfires that burn in the West, hurricanes that threaten the East, and extreme heat that endangers people and animals throughout the country. Now is the time for bold climate action,” said New York Governor Kathy Hochul, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, and the governors of eight other states. “(A)s Governors of states on the front line of the climate crisis, we place particular emphasis that the combined package includes the most impactful actions to protect our climate.”

On Climate-Smart Agriculture and Conservation:

“Well-managed agricultural lands offer a number of additional benefits, including carbon storage, erosion control, and flood prevention. We respectfully ask you to include robust funding for climate-smart agriculture conservation in upcoming reconciliation legislation,” wrote a group of six Senators from states in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, Chris Coons of Delaware, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, and Mark Warner and Tim Kaine of Virginia.

“As we seek to ‘build back better,’ it is critical that Congress demonstrate that we intend to do so not just in suburban and urban communities but also in rural communities across the country,” said U.S. House Agriculture Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee Chairwoman Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Chellie Pingree of Maine. “The conservation provisions included in the current draft of the Build Back Better Act communicate that vision through targeted investments in climate-smart agriculture that would significantly sequester carbon and reduce on-farm greenhouse gas pollution while growing the bottom-lines of growers and producers nationwide.”

“As companies, we believe that agriculture and forests are critical to achieving science-based emission reduction targets aligned with a 1.5-degree pathway globally. Given that the U.S. is currently the world’s second-largest GHG emitter and the U.S. agriculture sector is responsible for 10 percent of these emissions, there is an unprecedented opportunity for this sector to demonstrate climate leadership and lead the shift to net-zero,” said members of the Ceres Climate Smart Agriculture and Healthy Soil Working Group, including Danone North America, Fetzer Vineyards, Impossible Foods, Indigo Agriculture, Nestle, REI and Stonyfield Organic.  

“While there are many ideas and theories about how we can mitigate agriculture’s GHG impact, the proven reality is that working lands conservation programs are immediate and actionable,” said Clif Bar & Company.

“As food companies committed to reducing the environmental impacts of our agricultural supply chains, we write to urge you to ensure that the $28 billion allocated for climate-smart conservation practices remains in the final version of the budget reconciliation bill,” said a coalition of climate-focused food companies, including Ben & Jerry’s, Amy’s Kitchen, Organic Valley, Nature’s Path and Patagonia Provisions. “Because of insufficient conservation funding, more than 100,000 farmers and ranchers were turned away last year when they offered to share the cost of conservation practices with the USDA. By providing $28 billion to fund climate-smart conservation practices, Congress can share the cost of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon in the soil. These practices will also help make our farms better able to withstand the extreme weather caused by climate change.”

“We are companies that are deeply committed to combating climate change and promoting clean and renewable energy and energy efficiency, and that have taken significant steps to reduce emissions and embrace climate-forward business strategies. We believe, however, that both private-sector and government action are necessary for the United States to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions. To that end, we support the robust climate provisions in the Build Back Better Act and request their inclusion in the final legislation,” said a group of major companies, including Carrier, BP, Shell, PepsiCo, IKEA, Mars, Siemens and Unilever. “… It is critical that the provisions in the final legislation drive down emissions across all sectors; create new partnerships and incentives for food and agriculture; create high-quality, good-paying jobs; invest in community resilience; and advance environmental justice to deliver a sustainable future.”

“Dairy farmers are proactive stewards of their land and water resources, but they are always seeking to innovate further,” said Jim Mulhern, President and CEO, National Milk Producers Federation. “Dairy farmers in 2020 committed to become carbon-neutral or better by 2050 and maximize water quality around the country. Bolstering conservation investment and focusing on climate-smart practices better positions dairy farmers to fulfill the dairy sector’s 2050 environmental stewardship goals as envisioned in the Net Zero Initiative.”  

“America’s farmer co-ops and their producer-owners stand ready to help address the global challenge posed by climate change,” said Chuck Conner, President and CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives. “Increasing conservation funding for climate-friendly farming practices is essential to giving them the tools they need to do that and to continue their stewardship of our shared natural resources.” 

“As Congress takes up the proposed budget reconciliation and infrastructure measures, policymakers should... include funding and enabling authority for critically needed conservation and technical assistance programs and clean energy investments, including ethanol,” said former National Corn Growers Association President Fred Yoder, and former American Soybean Association President Ray Gaesser.  “With sound climate smart agriculture enabling polices, investments and markets, those who work the land can deliver solutions to climate, food system, energy and national security challenges.”

“Increasing baseline funding for the Farm Bill conservation programs and ramping up conservation technical assistance on the ground will enable landowners to mitigate the impacts of drought and flood, improve habitat, improve soil health and long-term food security, create new job opportunities for rural economies, and galvanize the agriculture sector to lead the charge in our fight against climate change,” said the DoubleUp Conservation Coalition, a group of hundreds of leading conservation and environmental advocates, including the National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund and National Audubon Society.  “We believe farmers, ranchers, and foresters are ready to move agriculture toward net zero emissions if they are provided the tools and resources to make that goal a reality. Action this year on the climate and infrastructure bill represents the best opportunity in decades to meet farmer demand for conservation programs.”

“The need for doubling funding for farm bill authorized conservation programs and program delivery through the budget reconciliation effort is vivid in landscapes across the country: nearly two-thirds of the western United States is currently experiencing extreme or exceptional drought; other regions of the country are experiencing significant flooding; and, more than 2 million acres have burned in 104 large fires and complexes in 12 states so far this year,” said a coalition of agriculture and natural resources organizations representing the Western U.S., including California Farm Bureau and Western Growers.

“We appreciate your leadership and recognition of the deep connections between agriculture, climate change, and the overarching importance of equity. We strongly support adoption of a robust reconciliation package that advances climate, economic, and equity goals together,” said a coalition of climate, agriculture and social justice organizations led by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, American Sustainable Business Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice and the Rural Coalition. “In particular, to build a food system that is resilient enough to feed us in a changing climate, we must dramatically increase public investments in sustainable farming and farming communities – including those who have been, and continue to be, underserved by U.S. farm policy.”

“The $28 billion in funding would provide a much-needed investment in USDA conservation programs, which have proven consistently popular with farmers,” wrote the American Farmland Trust. “In the case of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which helps many producers adopt regenerative practices like cover crops and no-till, for every one producer that receives funding, as many as three others are turned away due to insufficient funds. The current conservation section would increase EQIP’s funding by $9 billion while also increasing Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) funding by $4 billion.”

“(T)his package offers a significant opportunity to increase funding for voluntary, incentive-and science-based climate and conservation programs,” said the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, comprising the nation’s largest farm and environmental advocacy organizations. “FACA supports investments in these programs to foster carbon capture and storage on farms and forests, reduce other greenhouse gas emissions and provide a host of additional environmental benefits, such as cleaner water and improved wildlife habitat.”  

“Significant emissions reductions are possible from better agricultural practices such as planting cover crops and preserving grasslands, with one recent study from the Nature Conservancy and others finding opportunities for between 180 million and 500 million metric tons in near-term savings for the sector,” said the Center for American Progress. “Doubling funding for conservation programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could be accomplished under the reconciliation instructions for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, would have huge potential benefits.”

“Through budget reconciliation, Democrats are poised to make unprecedented investments in climate mitigation. Given the magnitude of the climate crisis, Congress should invest in a wide range of mitigation strategies, including embracing and expanding public agricultural research — which has reliably delivered environmental benefits for decades — and the infrastructure agricultural researchers depend on,” said Caroline Grunewald of The Breakthrough Institute.

“It is essential farmers, ranchers, and foresters are at the table as we design programs that will help our country address climate change,” said Heather Lair, Partner at Meridian Institute’s AGree Climate, Food, and Agriculture Dialogue. “By expanding and improving our current systems of conservation, we can build toward climate-resilient and profitable agricultural and forestry systems across millions of acres of U.S. working lands.” 

“The Senate and House Agriculture Committees’ proposal to invest $28 billion in on-farm conservation and Farm Bill conservation programs underscores the central role that farmers, ranchers and private forest owners have in addressing the challenges facing people and wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “This once in a generation opportunity to enable farmers, ranchers, and foresters to pay a pivotal role in fighting climate change will create jobs, support rural communities, and help ensure our shared wildlife heritage will endure for future generations.” 

“We support efforts to increase spending on conservation incentives, including strong technical and financial assistance, as part of upcoming infrastructure-related legislation,” said a coalition of leading farm organizations, including the National Milk Producers Federation, National Farmers Union and National Association of Wheat Growers. “This would provide an important opening to strengthen and advance the focus on those innovative practices and approaches that can help farmers to continue and enhance the work they have already done to reduce their environmental footprint.”

“Salesforce is committed to the global goal of achieving a just and equitable transition to Net Zero, in line with a 1.5°C degree future. The company also supports the goals of the Paris Agreement and the most recent commitment by the United States to reduce emissions by 50-52% by 2030 and achieve Net Zero by 2050,” said Salesforce. “The climate-focused elements of the proposed reconciliation package represent significant strides toward delivering on this commitment —decarbonizing the nation’s infrastructure, prioritizing high-quality, good-paying jobs, investing in community resilience, and advancing environmental justice to deliver a sustainable future.”

“Doubling funding for USDA conservation programs and doubling technical assistance funding is one of the fastest and most pragmatic ways to support rural communities and our nation’s producers, while building soil health, mitigating the impacts of flood, drought and other disasters, restoring biodiversity, ensuring our national food security, and addressing climate change,” said Aria McLauchlan, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Land Core. “In healthy soils, we have a non-partisan, keystone issue that provides the common ground to move America forward. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to build a more resilient US agriculture while meeting the administration’s climate and infrastructure goals.”

“This is the biggest investment in agricultural conservation programs since the Dust Bowl,” said the Environmental Working Group’s Scott Faber. “The budget reconciliation bill provides a once-in-a-generation chance to make better farmland stewardship, not unlimited subsidies, our top priority. Farmland conservation practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and store carbon also have the added benefit of reducing the amount of farm pollution that is fouling our drinking water.”

“Our research has shown that nearly 40 percent of landowner applications go unfunded, leaving the conservation of over 13 million acres on the table each year. These core, voluntary-incentive programs are ripe for investment, particularly as we evaluate how to enhance climate resilience through habitat improvements and meet our land conservation goals in the years to come,” said the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Now—through the budget reconciliation process that the TRCP has been tracking closely—Congress could be on the threshold of increasing private land conservation spending in an extremely impactful way.”

“The USDA’s Farm Bill conservation programs—including programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP), and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program—are incredibly popular and consequently routinely oversubscribed at current funding levels yet offer one of the most immediate pathways to promote climate adaptation and mitigation through soil health,” said a coalition of 186 university and private sector soil scientists, engineers and environmental scientists. “Because CSP and EQIP are familiar to farmers and ranchers and already encourage the adoption of many practices that can help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change, small adjustments and significant investments in these programs offer immediately actionable opportunities to tackle the climate crisis.”

On Agriculture Climate Research:

“The pandemic has shed light on the crucial role that our domestic agricultural industry plays in American society,” said Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and a group of fellow Senators including Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla of California, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Angus King of Maine and Richard Durbin of Illinois. “Research investments are sorely needed to ensure not only that farmers and producers have the tools necessary to continue providing food, feed, and fiber to communities all across the country in the face of climate change, but that farmers and producers are able to contribute to the climate change solution.”

“America has been the world leader in agricultural research and innovation, but that position is at risk if we do not make key investments in research and education programs and our agricultural research facilities to help mitigate the impacts of climate change on our food and fiber production,” said Chairman David Scott of Georgia and his fellow Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture. “The funding provided for climate-smart agriculture practices will help to address the fact that our current farm bill conservation programs are already oversubscribed with continuing backlogs that show the demand from producers and landowners willing to undertake efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rebuild soil carbon.”

“By providing our farmers, ranchers, and foresters with the tools they need to improve resiliency and scale climate-smart agriculture, we can ensure our agricultural communities are not only better equipped to adapt to climate-induced production challenges but also given the opportunity to be part of the climate solution,” said Congressional Agriculture Research Caucus Chair Jimmy Panetta of California, House Agriculture Committee Vice Chair Alma Adams of North Carolina, and 28 other lawmakers. “These investments will, in turn, help ensure both the safety and security of our national and global food supply.”

“To ensure the nation’s agricultural scientists can do their work — and that groundbreaking discoveries can reach farmers and help fight climate change — the federal government needs to act now,” said Benjamin Houlton, Dean of Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Specifically, Congress must prioritize funding for agricultural research in budget reconciliation legislation. The budget resolution that Congress just passed lays the groundwork to make transformational, once-in-a-generation investments in these areas.”

“No one bill or piece of legislation can solve every problem, but your efforts to increase awareness of the historical and systemic disparities among 1890 Land-Grant institutions and set a course for action to secure new and permanent funding priorities that preserve our unique land-grant mission, is very much appreciated,” said Virginia State University President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah, chair of the Council of 1890 Universities

“America’s Land-grant Universities, including the 1890 institutions, are uniquely positioned to address the climate challenges faced by American farmers, businesses, and communities,” said 1890 Universities Foundation President and CEO Dr. Mortimer Neufville. “The research and outreach services performed by 1890 institutions Colleges of Agriculture are foundational for America’s communities. Our nation’s agricultural research and innovation network is complimented by the Cooperative Extension System which transfers science-based information to individuals, businesses, and communities. This system has a notable return on investment with $17 returned to the U.S. economy for every $1 invested.”

“These proposed investments are a generational down payment to fill critical R&D gaps and climate-proof our food system -- realizing agriculture’s beneficial role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting carbon sequestration,” said a broad coalition of research institutions, land grant universities, and agriculture groups, including the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, National Coalition for Food and Agricultural Research, Union of Concerned Scientists, Farm Journal Foundation, American Seed Trade Association and American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges. “They provide funding for USDA research, the land grant colleges and universities, as well as tribal colleges and universities, historically Black colleges and universities, and Extension programs throughout the nation. Without these investments, we will face food supply shortages as well as an inability to mitigate climate change by storing carbon in our soils and forests.”

“The nation’s colleges of agriculture are key implementers of climate research and innovation because of the connection to local stakeholders,” said Dr. Alton Thompson of the Association of 1890 Research Directors. “Yet, scientists cannot perform optimally in facilities from the 1950s and 1960s. Modern agriculture research facilities will allow for robust and needed research on climate change, food safety, zoonotic disease preparedness, biosecurity, biobased packaging, and advanced market analysis. State-of-the-art facilities will also allow the agricultural, food, and biobased sciences to recruit a diversity of talent, add jobs to the economy, and enhance the U.S.’ ability to compete with international rivals.”

“This additional funding will help the AFRI competitive grant programs close some of the massive funding gaps that exist for highly ranked agricultural research proposals while supporting more targeted research that builds climate resilience, improves food security and rural economic prosperity, and trains the next generation of the agricultural workforce to help meet these challenges,” said the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Coalition.