Bold Climate & Agriculture Bill Introduced in Congress

Today, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME-1) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) in Congress, outlining a farmer-focused, research-driven path to net zero agriculture. This Earth Day, CAFF is proud to endorse this bill on behalf of our members as part of the solution to the climate crisis, recognizing the invaluable role that ecologically-focused farmers and ranchers can play.

The ARA reforms many Farm Bill programs and establishes a national goal for the agriculture sector of net zero emissions by no later than 2040, with additional goals to achieve by no later than 2040, including:

  • expanding adoption of soil health practices sufficiently to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils by 75%
  • increasing soil carbon stocks by at least 0.4% annually on all agricultural lands
  • including cover crops or other continual-living cover on at least 75% of cropland
  • encouraging conversion of 30% of current annual grain crop acres to perennial production systems
  • establishing advanced grazing management on 100% of grazing land
  • reducing GHG emissions related to the feeding of ruminants by at least 50%
  • increasing crop-livestock integration by at least 300% over 2017 levels
  • converting at least two thirds of wet manure handling and storage to alternative management
  • implementing energy audits on 100% of farms and tripling on-farm renewable energy production, and
  • reducing food waste by at least 75%, and composting or otherwise diverting from landfills 90% of unavoidable food waste and byproducts.

“The ARA adopts many strategies pioneered in California” said CAFF Policy Director, Dave Runsten, “such as the Healthy Soils Program, the diversion of organic matter from landfills, and the Alternative Manure Management Program. It’s a hopeful sign that our advocacy is moving from the state level to the national stage.”

The urgency of the climate crisis requires making US agriculture resilient to climate impacts while moving the agricultural sector toward climate neutrality. Farmers and ranchers recognize the fundamental threat that the climate crisis poses to agriculture and our shared future and they have unique solutions to offer. 

First introduced last Congress, the reintroduced version of the ARA, now with a Senate companion, incorporates important modifications. The ARA expands provisions to better serve farmers of color, as well as beginning and veteran farmers and ranchers; makes conservation programs more accessible to organic and transitioning-to-organic producers; and incorporates perennial agriculture throughout the bill, recognizing the climate mitigation and adaptation contributions of these production systems. All of these changes will help California’s diverse agriculture. 

Other items of specific interest for California: the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which is heavily relied on in California, would see increased funding of $1 billion and the beginning and socially disadvantaged farmer and rancher set-aside would be increased from 5% to 30%. There would also be additional technical assistance from NRCS and on marketing for these groups. Grants of up to $500,000 would be available for small scale meat processing. $100 million a year would be available for compost infrastructure. And organic certification cost share would be increased to $1,000 and the program guaranteed full funding.