Oct 12, 2023

Incite Post | Let's Talk Farm Bill

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Let’s talk about the farm bill, one of the most important pieces of recurring U.S. legislation you may have never heard of. Here’s how it works: every ~ 5 years, Congress passes a bill that governs everything from crop insurance for farmers to food benefits for low income families to climate policy. This one piece of omnibus (i.e., contains a lot of provisions) legislation impacts our farmers, our food, our welfare, and our climate. Seems like it should be front page news, no?

The 2018 farm bill expired on September 30th and the new one, of course, is entrenched in controversy with surprisingly little media coverage. We won’t focus too much on the main controversy – which is largely driven by one party that wants to cut welfare benefits for our most vulnerable and refuses to support legislation that supports our climate – other than to say: everyone has a right to food and we need to do everything we can to stop a climate catastrophe.

Instead, we’re focusing this edition of the Incite Post on some of the new ideas in this year’s farm bill debate. Take for example some of Congressman Blumenauer’s points: because of how it structures subsidies, the farm bill is incentivizing farmers to grow only certain crops, which impacts our nutrition, economy, and climate. And 10% of the biggest farmers get 70% of the benefits of those subsidies.

What would it look like to completely reimagine the farm bill to prioritize regular farmers, the American people, and our climate?

To approach an answer to that question, we have to start by understanding exactly what the problem is, and the potential impact of proposed solutions. We’ve written about methane emissions, which are responsible for 30% of our planet’s warming to date, and how we need to make progress on both measurement & regulation. And the farm bill has an opportunity to address another, similarly understudied issue: soil carbon. Did you know that healthy soils could sequester up to 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions?

Our friends at Carbon180 do. They’ve been advocating for research into soil carbon sequestration for a while, and there’s a piece of legislation in this year’s farm bill that would do just that. The Advancing Research on Agricultural Climate Impacts Act (ARACIA) directs the USDA to develop measurement and best practice tools to measure soil carbon sequestration, with the eventual goal of building an incentive structure that rewards farmers for helping the climate. That seems like a great start, and to learn more, we sat down with Londyn Marshall, Carbon180’s Deputy Director for Government Affairs. Check out our interview below.

Carbon180 Spotlight

Londyn Marshall serves as Carbon180’s Deputy Director of Government Affairs, leveraging her experience in political advocacy and fundraising to forward C180’s federal policy goals.

  • You’ve had a distinguished career in politics, spanning both at the state and national levels. What inspired you to pivot toward climate-focused work at C180 and what advice can you share with others looking to make a similar shift? What has surprised you most while diving into climate? 
    In my career in politics, I always felt really mission driven. The most fun part of politics was coming together with likeminded people to make the world a better place and working in climate feels very similar to that! I was also really inspired by all the momentum behind climate. It’s rare for a sector with support from the private sector and the federal government, but climate has that.  I’d encourage people that are anxious to make the “jump” to simply do it. Your skillset from your current role will likely be able to transition you into a successful career in climate. We need as many people as possible working to scale! I’ve met people in climate who are former professors, communications professionals, politics (like myself!), and scientist who all are stepping up to work in climate. The most surprising thing about working in climate is how many people are making career switches. People really feel the urgency and want to be a part of the solution, which is awesome!
  • You and the team at Carbon180 have been advocating for investments in soil carbon research, and more recently for the ARACI Act, which directs the USDA to start some of that research. Why is soil carbon sequestration so important? Why has it been so understudied until now? 
    The ARACI Act calls for advancements for measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification of soil carbon sequestration. ARACI builds out essential research and development to advance the next generation of measurement, reporting, and verification tools for soil carbon, jump-start a soil carbon monitoring network, and translate research findings to action on the ground through demonstration projects. The bill is bipartisan and bicameral, which we are really excited about!  Soil carbon sequestration has a lot of benefits, largely by helping mitigate climate change, increasing agriculture productivity, and maintaining ecosystem health.   The practices Carbon180 is advocating for in ARACI have the ability to help farmers and ranchers enhance the health of soils, improve productivity, and build resilience to extreme weather. Carbon180 believes that this bill can help transform agriculture's relationship to climate change. One reason soil carbon sequestration has been understudied is because it's hard to measure accurately (ARACI offers a way to make this easier!). It calls for monitoring over long periods of time and the work can be super labor intensive. Check out this blog from our team to learn a bit more:
  • What’s next for C180 and ARACI? How can our readers take action to support the passing of ARACI Act? 
    Right now, we are heads down focused on the farm bill process and anticipating the initial text, negotiations etc. The Farm Bill is always bipartisan so we are continuing to work with both sides of the aisle in both chambers including ARACI as negotiations happen. Readers can take action by beating the drumbeat for ARACI and reaching out to their local congressional members to have it included or reaching out to our team directly! You can learn more about ARACI and our farm bill platform here:

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