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Farm Bill Updates Designed For Sustainable Agricultural Future

The United States Farm Bill, a critical piece of agricultural legislation reviewed and passed every five years, is currently under review in Congress. Many of the bill’s 12 legislative sections will directly affect the sustainable future of farming in America. 

Officially known as the Agriculture Improvement Act, the Farm Bill is not just about how food is grown, what types of food are grown, and the livelihood of farmers, large and small. The over-800-page bill dictates what funding and resources are available to the agricultural industry. 

It also includes strong funding for conservation and is likely to have a significant impact on the country’s sustainable path forward. In fact, some argue that it may currently be the highest-stakes Congressional debate for a clean energy future.

Photo Courtesy Natural Resources Conservation Service

The size of the bill means its impacts will be noticeable across a multitude of industries and regions. Title 9 of the bill is focused entirely on energy, covering all programs that encourage growing crops for biofuel, supporting new energy research, and assisting farmers, ranchers, and business owners with installing renewable energy systems. 

In many cases, the Farm Bill builds on the bipartisan clean energy legislation built into the recent Inflation Reduction Act, which is designed to help the country meet its net-zero carbon emissions goals.

Part of the act includes using climate-smart agricultural methods and loosening the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels. With 10% of all carbon emissions coming from the farming sector, it’s clearly a critical time for a legislative update to the bill.

“The [current administration’s] Inflation Reduction Act is driving investment in rural communities across the nation, particularly in places that for too long have been left out or left behind,” said Tom Vilsack, secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Our programs are a major opportunity to build a clean energy economy in rural America that will lower energy costs, strengthen energy security, create good-paying jobs, and meet our climate goals.” 

“The response from rural America and rural electric cooperatives to these programs is a resounding ‘yes’ to federal funding for clean energy infrastructure to provide relief to farmers, rural small businesses, and individuals by lowering energy costs and creating economic opportunity for generations to come,” he continued.

Photo Courtesy Natural Resources Conservation Service

The updates to the Farm Bill can improve the benefits of Rural Energy for America

Program, which provides financial assistance to rural business owners to install renewable energy systems. It offers energy audits, the creation of renewable energy systems, and energy efficiency improvements. 

The program serves farmers, rural businesses, state, local, and Tribal governments, universities, rural electric cooperatives, resource conservation and development councils, and electricity providers and transmitters. Overall, the financial benefits would translate to improved energy reliability, less pollution, and far less expense for farmers and ranchers, large and small.

Additionally, the Farm Bill will potentially include nearly $13 billion for energy programs that could equal major changes in forestry, farming, and rural areas.

The bill’s programs support climate-smart agricultural practices and target greenhouse gas reductions, including the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which offer funding and tax credits for farmers and ranchers using sustainable practices. These programs promote equity in farming, focus on renewable energy, and improve food waste emissions practices while supporting sustainable agriculture research and development.

“Over the last six months, I have spent time with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, articulating not only the needs in farm country…I have promoted a thoughtful framework of ideas, including the repurposing of Inflation Reduction Act dollars as well as a strengthening of Congress’ Article I authority through a forward-thinking Thrifty Food Plan framework, among others,” shared Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. “Taken in concert, these funding opportunities would not only fine tune the farm safety net but increase the farm bill’s baseline through reinvestment in bipartisan priorities across other titles including conservation, research, and nutrition.”

Photo Courtesy Natural Resources Conservation Service

Overall, the Farm Bill offers the country numerous incentives toward a clean energy future. Proposed updates to its programs emphasize climate change and a focus on making the nation’s rural areas more resilient. By incorporating climate performance changes and greater funding for sustainable practices, the Farm Bill can help those who work on the land see greater profit while ensuring that the soil, water, and air — and food supply — in the U.S. remain healthy for generations to come.


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