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Does 2018 Farm Bill Do Enough to Address Climate Change?

Minnesota is one of the top recipients of Conservation Stewardship Program funds. (Tony Webster/Flickr)
Minnesota is one of the top recipients of Conservation Stewardship Program funds. (Tony Webster/Flickr)
December 18, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. — After months of negotiations, Congress has passed the 2018 Farm Bill and it now awaits President Donald Trump's signature. But does the new Farm Bill do enough to fight the impending threat of climate change on farmers?

Tara Ritter, senior program associate with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said there are some small wins in the battle against climate change, but the Farm Bill largely upholds the status quo of past bills, ignoring many of the structural problems in agriculture.

"From a climate change perspective, that's not explicitly called out at all,” Ritter said. “And a lot of things that the Farm Bill could do to incentivize climate both adaptation and mitigation, it doesn't take those steps."

Ritter said soil is key for carbon sequestration, and the bill does fund a small pilot program on soil health. Disincentives for cover crops have also been taken out of this year's bill. Ritter said there is a small amount of funding to support local food systems as well.

The Conservation Stewardship Program was on the chopping block but made the cut. It's the largest working lands conservation program in the bill, providing financial incentive and technical assistance in implementing conservation practices on farms. Minnesota consistently is one of the top recipients of CSP dollars.

Ritter said folks have been turned away in the past because the program wasn't made big enough in the 2014 bill, and it will likely be the same in the years to come.

"It's more or less static for this five-year life of this new farm bill,” she said. “Unfortunately, CSP will see major funding cuts over the long term."

Ritter said farmers face a tough economy with rising debt, low prices for many commodities and an escalating trade war.

"Ignoring a lot of these climate concerns on top of all that is just another burden for farmers,” she said. “And the National Climate Assessment does lay out that those challenges are just going to be increasing over the coming years."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MN