As federal negotiators work to forge consensus on the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan, it is critically important that climate smart agriculture, water infrastructure and clean energy investments be retained.
As SfL’s representatives have been championing this week in Glasgow at COP 26, the needs and capabilities of farmers, ranchers and foresters to sustainably intensify production, adapt and enhance resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been underappreciated and undervalued.
By increasing investments in agriculture, America can show the world the value of utilizing working lands to address mega-challenges like climate change. It’s time to act and show how agriculture can be enabled as a high value climate smart solution pathway.
Investments in clean energy and fighting climate change in the current measures include $320 billion in 10-year expanded tax credits for utility-scale and residential clean energy, transmission and manufacturing. It also offers $105 billion for investments and incentives to address extreme weather, such as wildfires, droughts and hurricanes that address agriculture, forestry and wetlands. A $110-billion measure would, among other expenditures fund incentives targeted to spur new domestic supply chains and technologies, like solar, batteries and advanced materials.
More than $90 billion is set aside for the measure’s agriculture provisions, including climate smart practices (the plan would pay $25 per acre for cover crops), and efforts that offer assistance for rural development and forestry.
The measure would provide $8 billion for western water infrastructure in an effort to address ongoing drought conditions there. Under the plan, investments would be made in aging infrastructure, including $1.15 billion for water storage, groundwater storage and conveyance. Funds would also be provided for water recycling, desalination, rural water projects, dam safety, the Colorado River Basin Drought Contingency plan, waterSMART grants (which includes investments to modernize existing infrastructure), watershed health and aquatic ecosystems.
The measure would set aside $960 million for biofuel infrastructure, but also revise current biofuel tax incentives for biofuels. The plan would continue the $1-per-gallon tax credit for biodiesel and renewable diesel through 2026, then replace it with a low-carbon fuel credit extended to sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and advanced biofuels, including ethanol produced with carbon-capture technology.
The reduced package still offers big jumps in spending for farm bill conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides financial and technical assistance to producers and non-industrial forest managers to address natural resource concerns. EQIP aims to deliver environmental benefits such as improved water and air quality, conserved ground and surface water, increased soil health and reduced soil erosion and sedimentation, improved or created wildlife habitat, and mitigation against drought and increasing weather volatility.
Also boosted in the plan is money for the Conservation Stewardship Program, which helps build on existing conservation efforts, including efforts to improve grazing conditions, increase crop resiliency, or develop wildlife habitat. The program helps operators identify natural resource problems and provide technical and financial assistance to address those problems, such as soil loss, excess water, airborne soil particles and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).
SfL commends the Biden administration and congressional leaders for acknowledging our long-held belief that agriculture can lead the fight to stem climate change and provide solutions to many other equally important global sustainable development goals. SfL urges stakeholders to tell lawmakers to retain provisions in both of these coupled measures that would incentivize growers to implement climate smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions, enhance delivery of ecosystem services and create new and better market opportunities for rural America.