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Climate Change, Another 2023 Farm Bill Flashpoint

Climate change as an issue in the next farm bill is already causing temperatures to rise in the nation’s capital. The way former USDA Deputy Secretary Chuck Connor on a recent Farm Foundation forum, sees it is; “I believe that this farm bill that we’re debating in 2023, will need to be able to carry a label as the most climate-friendly bill that we have every passed in the Congress, in terms of agriculture.”

But not the way incoming House Ag Chair Glenn GT Thompson sees it; “We don’t need a ‘climate change title’ in the farm bill. And I’ll be honest with you, what we need to do is give credit to the American ranchers, farmers, foresters, for what they do. For too long, there’s been a bullseye right on the back of all these families that work so hard to provide us food and fiber, that says ‘climate criminal.’”

But if there’s anything farm leaders agree on, it’s conservation incentives, not dictates. Former Farm Service Agency chief, Jonathan Coppess says; “Let the innovators compete, let them go after it and do what they want, it’s not ‘one size fits all,’ it gives them a shot to do it. We’re not going to, sort of, shoehorn a set of policies across the entire space. What we’re talking about, is really the option at the farm level. And if you want to chase a climate market, here’s a backstop to help you do so.”

The Inflation Reduction Act has some $16 billion for conservation programs like EQIP, CSP and RCCP, but Coppess says it’s not free money.

Coppess; “This would require eliminating some of the spending from the Inflation Reduction Act, as an offset, because we increased spending somewhere else.”

But Coppess admits the final decision is up to the Congressional Budget Office, while Connor predicts a “heavy, heavy lift” for the next farm bill, even without the climate debate.

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