WASHINGTON – Today, on Earth Day, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) joined U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) in introducing the bicameral Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA). This sweeping legislation sets a roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions from agriculture by 2040 and empowers farmers with the tools and resources needed to improve soil health, sequester carbon, reduce emissions, enhance their resilience, and tap into new market opportunities.
"New Mexico’s farmers and ranchers, whose livelihoods depend on the health of our land and water, are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and know all too well the effects that extreme weather events can have on their operations. Through regenerative agriculture and soil management, our producers can simultaneously make their land more resilient and play a large role in the fight against climate change," said Heinrich. "I’m proud to join Congresswoman Pingree, an organic farmer of more than 40 years, to introduce the Agriculture Resilience Act, which sets a national goal of achieving net-zero emissions in agriculture by 2040 through farmer-led, science-based initiatives. This legislation will make ambitious investments to help our farmers and ranchers improve soil health, expand conservation programs, increase research into climate agricultural practices, and support on-farm renewable energy projects."
“Extreme weather events are upending farmers’ bottom lines, threatening their businesses and risking the future of our food supply. Congress must work to keep farmers on their land, and we must work to empower those farmers to implement climate-smart practices that reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions and increase their resilience in the face of climate change,” said Pingree. “The Agriculture Resilience Act focuses on solutions that are farmer-driven in order to reach net-zero emissions in this sector by 2040. Climate change deserves a whole-of-government approach, and I’m looking forward to working with the Biden administration to ensure farmers have a seat at the table as we work to address the climate crisis.”
In 2019, agricultural activities contributed 9.6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. To reach net-zero agricultural emissions by 2040, the Agriculture Resilience Act offers farmer-driven solutions rooted in science which build upon a suite of existing USDA research and conservation programs. The bill would empower farmers by:
Increasing USDA Research & Regional Climate Hubs
- Increases funding for USDA’s Regional Climate Hubs.
- Invests in public breed and cultivar research.
Improving Soil Health
- Authorizes USDA to offer performance-based crop insurance discounts for practices that can be demonstrated to reduce risk.
- Creates new USDA grants to state and tribal governments to improve soil health. Directs USDA to establish a Soil Health and Greenhouse Gas Advisory Committee.
Protecting existing farmland
- Creates a new Local Agriculture Marketing Program (LAMP) subprogram to help farmers develop and expand markets for farm products that improve soil health.
- Increases funding for the Agriculture Conservation Easement Program.
- Supporting pasture-based livestock systems.
- Creates a new grant program to support small-scale meat and poultry processing infrastructure.
- Establishes a new Grasslands 30 Pilot Program through which grasslands at risk of conversion to cropping or development can receive annual payments.
Boosting investments in on-farm energy initiatives
- Increases funding for USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.
- Directs USDA to research dual-use energy systems that integrate renewable energy production with crop or animal production.
Reducing food waste
- Standardizes food date labeling to reduce consumer confusion.
- Creates a new USDA program to reduce food waste in schools.
The Agriculture Resilience Act includes an expanded grant program to fund the development and implementation for state and tribal soil health plans; bolsters the Conservation Stewardship Program, encourages the transition from annual to perennial crop production; increases support for the Organic Cost Share program; creates a new Processing Resilience Grant Program for small meat and poultry processors; and places a priority on underserved producers to advance equity.
In New Mexico, the Agriculture Resilience Act has received the support of New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group, the New Mexico Food & Agriculture Policy Council, Farm to Table New Mexico, Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network, El Valle del Norte Young Farmers Coalition, Rio Grande Farmers Coalition, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, and the New Mexico Young Farmers Coalition.
"Farmers and ranchers are in the unique position to mitigate the negative effects of climate change through proven best practices that create healthier land and more functional watersheds. We thank Senator Heinrich for bringing forward this necessary bill to sustain voluntary, incentive-based programs and provide vital investment in the tools and services necessary to create market opportunities and enable the stewardship of our working lands for future generations,” said Dr. Dale McCall, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President.
"On behalf of the New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group, a grassroots education and advocacy organization, we commend Senator Heinrich for introducing and sponsoring the Agriculture Resilience Act. The Act is vital for our future by honoring farmers and ranchers, by investing in and incentivizing the health of the soil and by helping restore relationships with the land and each other,” said New Mexico Healthy Soil Working Group.
In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).
Supportive statements from more than 40 organizations, including former Vice President Al Gore, American farmland Trust, National Farmers Union, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, and National Organic Coalition can be found here.