Lawmakers introduce several pieces of climate legislation

Climate legislation is happening at all levels of government. In the last few weeks, multiple leaders in Congress have introduced legislation to address the issue.

The first piece of legislation, the Conservation and Innovative Climate Partnership Act, was introduced by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.). The legislation would establish a grant program to help producers adopt conservation and climate practices and reduce emissions. The legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

The Conservation and Innovative Climate Partnership Act would link research from land-grant universities to farmers to enable them to use individualized tools to meet their specific needs on their operations without mandates or punitive measures. The act would:

• Enable partnerships between land-grant institutions and local farmers to increase uptake of conservation and innovative climate practices;

• Allow farmers to voluntarily adopt practices that suit their individualized needs;

• Require land-grant institutions to partner with a non-profit, state or federal entity;

• Allow the partnership to conduct a variety of activities to support farming communities like workshops, distribution of digital materials and tests to measure the effectiveness of conservation and climate smart practices; and

• Provide $13 million in funding for four-year grants, with a maximum grant of $400,000.

“Productivity and conservation go hand in hand, but farmers need access to individualized tools to meet their specific needs. Land-grant institutions are uniquely situated to use the Extension network to reach farmers and provide boots on the ground,” a press release said.

The Washington Association of Wheat Growers released a statement supporting Newhouse’s legislation, saying, “The Washington Association of Wheat Growers welcomes Congressman Newhouse’s Conservation and Innovative Climate Partnership Act as an opportunity to address and provide solutions to climate changes, especially the unique challenges faced by the wheat growing region of the Inland Northwest. Wheat growers across Washington state have collaborated with and continue to rely on the innovative research conducted at land-grant universities for more than a century. Washington State University is a trusted institution with the resources needed to continue to aid in the advancement of the agricultural industry in our state.”

More legislation was introduced by Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Republican leader of the House Agriculture Committee, and comprises five different proposals that are described as “natural solutions” to addressing climate change.

“Agriculture Republicans are crafting innovative climate solutions by empowering the original stewards of our land—our farmers, ranchers and foresters. These thoughtful, science-based policies will help promote a stronger agriculture economy by growing climate-friendly innovations that are already being carried out by producers,” Thompson said in a press release.

The five proposals are:

• Sponsoring USDA Sustainability Targets in Agriculture to Incentivize Natural Solutions Act, or SUSTAINS Act, from Thompson. This proposal encourages private-sector partnerships for agriculture sustainability by allowing businesses to invest in conservation practices in geographic regions of their choice. The bill also would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to match these funds.

• Restoring Environments, Soils, Trees and Operations to develop the Rural Economy Act, or the RESTORE Act, from Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.). This proposal provides new tools for USDA to work with states on landscape-scale management projects to prioritize reduction of wildfire risk, restoration of ecological health and climate adaptation and resiliency.

• Naturally Offsetting Emissions by Managing and Implementing Tillage Strategies Act, or the NO EMITS Act, from Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.). This proposal provides incentives for producers to adopt soil health cropping systems in order to increase farm productivity and optimize agriculture’s ability to sequester carbon and reduce net emissions.

• Forestry Improvements to Restore the Environment Act, or the FIRE Act, from Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.). This proposal provides new management tools to expedite forest restoration activities, restore forest health, grow rural economies and produce climate resilient communities and landscapes.

• Producing Responsible Energy and Conservation Incentives and Solutions for the Environment Act, or the PRECISE Act, from Rep. Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa). This proposal increases cost share and practice payments under existing federal programs to incentivize the purchase of precision agriculture equipment, systems and technology. 

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