WASHINGTON — As lawmakers begin envisioning the next farm bill, some U.S. House Republicans are wary of making climate change a priority for farmers and ranchers.
The pushback from Republicans at a Tuesday hearing came as the Biden administration has tried to make significant new investments in climate change mitigation on farmland, last week announcing 70 pilot projects to support climate-friendly food production.
Lawmakers must rewrite the sweeping farm bill every five years to set policy and funding for agriculture, conservation and nutrition programs. The next farm bill is due in 2023, and some environmental groups are eyeing it as a potential boon for fighting climate change.
It’s also unclear which party will control the U.S. House and Senate following November’s midterm elections.
The farm bill includes massive funding for conservation programs—the previous legislation budgeted nearly $30 billion over five years.
More than 140 million acres of farmland in the U.S. are currently receiving conservation-related financial and technical assistance from the federal government, according to an analysis from the Farm Bureau. By comparison, the national park system has more than 85 million acres, according to the National Park Service.
The farmland conservation programs have received bipartisan support in the past, but some Republicans on Tuesday expressed concern about a growing interest in climate mitigation on farmland.
“Congress must be mindful of this massive amount of funding before amending programs or making policy changes that reorient programs toward climate. No one natural resource concern should be prioritized over others,” California Republican Rep. Douglas LaMalfa said at a hearing in a panel of the House Agriculture Committee.
LaMalfa is currently the top ranking Republican on the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.
New money at hand
At issue is both how to shape the conservation programs in the next farm bill and how to manage an extra funding infusion from the recently approved Inflation Reduction Act.
That bill, which the House and Senate passed in August, has a slate of programs to address climate change, including more than $20 billion for climate investments on farmland. Those include support for no-till agriculture, cover crops or other programs that affect the soil’s ability to hold carbon.
It will provide about a 47 percent increase over previous farm bill levels, according to an analysis from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
But for his part, the top Republican on the full committee indicated he would prefer to go his own way in directing the funding. Read more