Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) announced the introduction of two bills, the Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act and the Conservation for Agricultural Leased Land (CALL) Act, to help agricultural producers and farmers address the impacts of climate change.
“Our country’s farmers need the tools to help them improve crop yields and soil health and to address the devastating impacts of climate change on their operations,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “In Ventura County, agriculture is the cornerstone of our regional economy and a proud part of our heritage. I have heard from many of our farmers that they would like to transition to climate-friendlier practices, but they need support and resources. To assist farmers, Congress must improve federal agricultural conservation programs to better suit their needs, including for farmers who lease their lands. We must ensure the federal programs that assist farmers consider the potential climate benefits of conservation. My legislation helps farmers transition to environmentally-friendly conservation practices that are good for both their bottom-line and for our environment, a true win-win.”
“American Farmland Trust is pleased to support Rep. Brownley’s Conservation for Agricultural Leased Land (CALL) Act and the Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act. From one-year leases that can disincentivize long-term conservation planning, to varying levels of owner awareness of farming practices, there are numerous barriers to implementing conservation on rented land. With nearly forty percent of our nation’s agricultural land rented, the CALL Act will identify ways to engage more farmers, ranchers, and landowners in practices that protect the soil, combat climate change, and improve bottom lines. The Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act will help ensure that USDA conservation practices will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon, and make agriculture more resilient to climate change,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director, American Farmland Trust.
“Removing barriers to conservation practice adoption will make it easier for farmers and landowners to protect natural resources and be part of the climate solution. These bills aim to tackle those barriers and include an important focus on the relationship between conservation adoption and land ownership and access, including for farmers of color. We look forward to working with Representative Brownley as she continues to lead,” said Maggie Monast, Director, Working Lands at Environmental Defense Fund.
“The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is proud to endorse the Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act and the Conservation for Agricultural Leased Land (CALL) Act and thank Congresswoman Brownley for her leadership on climate and agriculture issues. It is critical that we understand barriers to adoption of conservation practices and that federal conservation programs acknowledge and reward the climate benefits of the conservation practices farmers and ranchers are implementing on their land. These two bills will encourage transition to more sustainable, climate-friendly production systems,” said Eric Deeble, Policy Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
The Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is responsible for developing and maintaining a list of conservation practice standards that are eligible for federal support. While many of the currently approved conservative practices, such as cover crops or no-till farming, also have climate benefits, NRCS does not directly consider climate benefits when developing their list of approved standards.
The Climate Agricultural Conservation Practices Act would require NRCS to consider climate benefits, such as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, increases in carbon sequestration, or mitigation against or adaptation to increased weather volatility, when developing conservation practice standards. This improvement to NRCS conservation programs was also a recommendation made by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’s Congressional Action Plan.
The text of the bill can be found here.
The Conservation for Agricultural Leased Land (CALL) Act
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) operates several programs that provide financial and technical support to farmers looking to improve the conservation of their land, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Unfortunately, some farmers struggle to access these programs or implement conservation practices because they lease, rather than own, farmland. In fact, according to a 2016 USDA study, 39 percent of agricultural land in the U.S. is leased. That said, the precise challenges these farmers face have been under-studied and therefore are not fully understood. Some of the potential barriers these farmers face include the length and structure of a lease, the level of independence given to the farmer, and the awareness of the landowner of the conservation programs that exist.
The Conservation for Agricultural Leased Lands (CALL) Act would require the USDA to conduct a study to better understand the unique barriers that farmers who lease their lands face in accessing conservation programs or implementing conservation practices. With the information gained from this study, USDA and Congress will be able to make improvements to existing federal programs to ensure that farmers who lease land are able to participate fully in these programs and derive the benefits of improved conservation practices. The Select Committee on the Climate Crisis’s Congressional Action Plan also recommended this action to improve federal conservation programs.
The text of the bill can be found here.