On March 16, I testified before the House Agriculture Committee at a hearing titled
“A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change”. Working closely with commercial producers has provided the Agricultural and Food Policy Center with a unique perspective on agricultural policy. While we normally provide the results of policy analyses at committee hearings, on this occasion I was carrying the message from the nearly 675 producers we work with across the United States.
In preparation for the testimony we emailed our representative farm members the following points that I planned on making and asked them to let us know if they agreed or disagreed with each of the 5 points. In two days, we received 105 responses and several more after I had submitted my testimony.
- Having a strong safety net from Title I programs (ARC/PLC and the marketing loan) and Title XI (crop insurance) remains critical even with new carbon market opportunities. They unanimously agreed with this statement in spite of the fact they expect very little benefit from Title I programs this year.
- USDA conservation programs (CRP, CSP and EQIP) that have incentivized a broad array of conservation practices have worked well in the past. They have just been under funded. Producers much prefer this type of program to the current carbon program situation where the significant record keeping requirements, additionality requirements, uncertain soil tests, and very low financial benefits have the majority of our representative farm panel members not interested in participating.
- Congress should strongly consider providing financial incentives to early adopters who are not eligible to participate in current carbon programs due to the additionality requirement. If it is good to sequester carbon it should also be good to keep carbon sequestered. Many of the producers who responded to my request indicated that they are disgusted with a system that only rewards late adopters
- All producers regardless of size, region, or crops planted should have opportunities in any new USDA climate programs. This statement appears fairly benign but let me assure you it is not. If all producers in the U.S. do not have some USDA NRCS identified practice they can undertake in the name of sequestering carbon then there will be regional winners and losers, and by crop, and by size as carbon programs are created.
- Congress should consider providing USDA the authority to safeguard producers from being taken advantage of in current carbon markets dealing with private entities. For example, signing a carbon contract with at least one current company would require a producer to forgo commodity and conservation program benefits on that land. This is really the only point where many producers disagreed with me. Several producers would rather not have the government get involved in the carbon market at all and asked me to point out that while they see a problem – it could be made worse.
Outaw, Joe. “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change“. Southern Ag Today 2(12.4). March 17, 2022. Permalink