(Washington, D.C.) Today, Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced the Naturally Offsetting Emissions by Managing and Implementing Tillage Strategies (NO EMITs) Act, a bill aimed at supporting farmers in improving soil health. American Farmland Trust (AFT) applauded the bipartisan bill’s introduction and its inclusion of one of AFT’s top Farm Bill priorities: establishing a federal match for state and Tribal soil health programs. Introduction of the No EMITs Act comes just days after AFT released a white paper outlining the need for this kind of federal matching program, and urging Congress to build up locally-led programs that supplement and fill gaps in NRCS conservation support.
“In recent years, states have begun creating innovative soil health programs that fill current gaps in support and help producers voluntarily adopt soil health practices in locally-tailored ways,” said Tim Fink, Policy Director for American Farmland Trust. “But with limited state budgets, these programs struggle to keep pace with producer interest and demand. Creating a new federal program to match state and Tribal funding would help leverage existing soil health programs and incentivize others to create programs of their own.”
Soil health is a key strategy to support farm viability, increase resilience to extreme weather, promote food security, and address environmental concerns. But soil health practice adoption is not sufficiently widespread—for example, in 2017, cover crops were planted on just 6% of eligible acres. NRCS programs are the main form of support to help producers successfully adopt soil health practices, but these popular programs are oversubscribed, address a wide range of resource concerns, and leave gaps, such as supporting equipment purchases that enable producers to adopt soil health practices.
“This approach would leverage federal funding, build on local leadership and innovation, and incentivize the creation of new state and Tribal programs that fit local soils, local climate, and local needs,” Fink said. “AFT applauds Representatives Gallagher and Huffman for their leadership in introducing this legislation at such a critical time.”
The proposal to create a federal match for state and Tribal soil health programs in the Farm Bill has broad support from across the country—American Farmland Trust coordinated a memo of support that was signed by 6 state agencies; 9 conservation district associations; and stakeholders from across sectors in 29 states, including the farm, food, environment, conservation, public health, research, education, and environmental justice sectors. The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) also supported this policy in their 2023 Farm Bill Recommendations.