Inflation reduction act is historic for agricultural producers
Farmers and ranchers are critical allies in the fight against climate change. But we need tools and resources to protect our land, increase resilience to extreme weather, sequester carbon in the soil and reduce emissions.
Thankfully the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) recently signed into law by President Biden provides these tools and resources amounting to an historic $35 billion for agriculture conservation programs, renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, and biofuel infrastructure. This would not have happened without U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo. Sen. Hickenlooper was widely credited for keeping negotiations alive on IRA with U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV., while Sen. Bennet was working to include major investments in our forests and agricultural sector, helping to secure $4 billion to address drought in the West and in the Colorado River Basin in the IRA.
The IRA will help family farmers and ranchers adapt to and mitigate climate change by providing funding for voluntary, incentive-based programs that are critically underfunded. This is important as no sector of our economy is more vulnerable to climate change than agriculture, but no one can do more, in less time to mitigate and adapt to climate change than farmers and ranchers.
The IRA provides about $18 billion to four agricultural conservation programs, starting in fiscal year 2023, with direction to U.S. Department of Agriculture to prioritize projects that “mitigate or address climate change through the management of agricultural production.” In implementing the IRA, USDA is to provide funding for “agricultural conservation practices, enhancements, or bundles that the secretary determines directly improve soil carbon, reduce nitrogen losses, or reduce, capture, avoid, or sequester carbon dioxide, methane, or nitrous oxide emissions, associated with agricultural production.”
Some of the specific programs include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program which assists farmers and ranchers in improving environmental quality such as soil conservation and quality will get $8.45 billion. Additionally, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program which furthers conservation, protection, restoration and sustainable use of soil and water will receive $4.95 billion. Another $3.25 billion will go to the Conservation Stewardship Program to help agricultural producers maintain and improve their existing conservation systems and adopt additional conservation activities, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program which provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands will get $1.4 billion.
An additional $1 billion will be provided to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service for conservation technical assistance and $300 million is allocated to USDA for measuring the impact of agricultural practices on greenhouse gas emissions.
The IRA also includes investments and assistance for our rural electric cooperatives to increase the amount of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for rural parts of Colorado. Over the past few years, we’ve seen these investments go to larger cities and it is about time these investments are specifically made in rural Colorado. There is much more in this package and folks are encouraged to reach out their local USDA representatives to find out more.
Importantly, this federal funding will be leveraged by several state programs including the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Colorado Soil Health Program, which awards new healthy soils matching grants to Colorado agricultural producers, and ACRE3 (Advancing Colorado’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency) program, which promotes the development and implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for Colorado’s agricultural producers and processors.
The IRA equips farmers, ranchers, and rural communities with the necessary tools to be an important part of the solution. Farmers and ranchers are essential stewards of the state and national landscape and have a key role to play in developing climate crisis solutions that recognize both agriculture’s contribution to and potential to mitigate the problem. Agriculture is part of the solution – not the problem.
Stulp was the commissioner of agriculture under former Gov. Bill Ritter, Water Policy Adviser to former Gov. John Hickenlooper and is a wheat and cattle farmer/rancher.
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