House Ag Committee Press Forward on Climate Change Policy Ahead of Farm Bill Hearing

The House Ag Committee is tackling climate change programs as it considers the 2023 Farm Bill.

Lawmakers continue to press forward on adding climate policy into legislation, but there’s disagreement on how best to go about it. Ahead of the latest Farm Bill Hearing, Texas A&M Economist Dr. Joe Outlaw surveyed farmers to better understand their concerns.

“In my opinion, tying climate-smart practices to the Crop Insurance Program should not be done, not to premiums, not to participation, nor to indemnities. The farmers we work with are worried about the long-run implications for crop insurance of tying climate-smart provisions to the policy, and that it will lead to regional winners and losers depending upon practices that are available.”

He said providing incentives to early adopters should also be a priority.

“Many of the producers who responded to my request indicated that they are disgusted with a system that only rewards late adopters.”

Dr. Outlaw also had concerns that USDA’s climate-smart commodities pilot programs could create winners and losers.

But Dr. Glenda Humiston, Vice President of Ag and Natural Resources at the University of California, had a more favorable opinion.

“We’ve heard some folks concerned about investments that USDA is currently making in these. Personally, I think we have got to make these investments. If we want our farmers to be able to deal with extreme weather and avoid additional regulations, we’ve got to create incentive programs that really have some meat on the bones, which includes the kind of funding that USDA is attempting to put out there.”

Former Senator Heidi Heitkamp told the committee USDA should focus on increasing and deploying additional staff to provide technical assistance for existing programs.

“Take the EQIP program. During a horrible drought in western North Dakota, an early adopter of the EQIP program actually was able to grow grass and did not have to buy hay. All of a sudden, his neighbors were looking across the fence. What a great moment that would have been to deploy a team of people to say ‘hey, this is how you do the EQIP program,’ and not rely on just that producer to producer discussion.”

Shakera Raygoza, representing the National Young Farmers Coalition, also discussed the EQIP program saying she had to take out a personal loan to cover the costs of participating.

“Fortunately for us, we have good credit but many young farmers might not have good credit to access those financing options. So, I think the key for making those programs accessible to farmers is to have those costs or those that those funds available upfront and so we don’t have to look for other financing options.”

All of the witnesses agreed the next Farm Bill should include increased funding for existing conservation programs like EQIP that are currently seeing more demand than available resources.

Several members questioned why the committee is talking about climate change when high input prices and the war in Ukraine are more pressing concerns.

Chairman David Scott said he would be asking colleagues to join him in sending a letter to Secretary Vilsack asking for additional tools to help address the humanitarian crisis.


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