October 2023: With the election of a Speaker of the House, we finally have a tentative timeline for the farm bill and a stated goal to achieve a farm bill vote in December. While this is a highly ambitious timeline and it remains very unlikely that we’ll get a new farm bill by December, now is an important time to advocate for soil health and make your voice heard!
Highlighted below are several marker bills that you may wish to support. Contact Congress today and ask your representatives to support these marker bills if they haven’t done so already!
You can find your member of Congress by clicking here. Once you have their name, you can reach their office by calling the Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224-3121
Prefer to send an email? You can do that through your Congressional member’s website. Just click on the “contact” link on their homepage.
What is a marker bill? A bill introduced in Congress to signal policy ideas and gather support for those ideas, in this case with the goal of inclusion in the farm bill.
AGRICULTURE RESILIENCE ACT:
The Agriculture Resilience Act was introduced by U.S. Senator Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). It sets a bold vision of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by the year 2040 through investments to help farmers and ranchers improve soil health, expand conservation programs, increase research into climate agricultural practices, and support on-farm renewable energy projects.
→ Read the Agriculture Resilience Act press release.
SMALL FARM CONSERVATION ACT:
U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) joined Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to introduce the Small Farm Conservation Act, legislation that would help small farms access federal conservation programs delivered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
→ Read the Small Farm Conservation Act press release.
FARMER TO FARMER EDUCATION ACT:
The Farmer to Farmer Education Act introduced by U.S. Senators Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) would leverage existing technical assistance resources by supporting farmer-led education networks and building capacity for new ones—particularly for communities that are historically marginalized from existing systems—as a key strategy to increase adoption of conservation practices.
AGRIVOLTAICS RESEARCH AND DEMONSTRATION ACT:
More research and analysis is needed to establish best practices for agrivoltaic system design and deployment in different regions across the country. Senators Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Braun (R-Ind.) introduced the Agrivoltaics Research and Demonstration Act of 2023 to help fill in these gaps and support farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and solar developers expand the deployment of agrivoltaic systems.
The Converting Our Waste Sustainably (COWS) Act would establish a new federal manure management conservation program that reduces methane emissions on dairies while improving the economic viability of small and medium-sized dairies and offering an alternative to anaerobic digesters. The COWS Act would extend these voluntary incentives to dairy producers across the country. The COWS Act was introduced in the House and the Senate and is sponsored by Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Michael Lawler (R-NY), Josh Harder (D-CA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), and Jasmine Crockett (D-TX), as well as by Senators Alex Padilla (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).
→ Read the COWS Act press release.
Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act
The Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act would address the interrelated challenges of land access and tenure, as well as access to capital, markets, and technical assistance to help producers start and grow viable farm businesses, retain access to land, and transition land. The bill would authorize and expand USDA’s Increasing Land, Capital, and Market Access Program with appropriations of $100 million per year. Lead Sponsors: Representatives Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), Zach Nunn (R-IA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN).
REGENERATE AMERICA MARKER BILLS —NM Healthy Soil is part of Regenerate America, a large coalition of food and agriculture organizations and individuals working to to ensure that policies supporting farmers and ranchers in the transition towards regeneration become part of the farm bill. Here are three of our coalition-developed marker bills that have been introduced in Congress.
→ Visit the Regenerate America Action Center to contact Congress today and ask your representatives to support these marker bills if they haven’t done so already!
SOIL CARE ACT:
The Soil Conservation and Regeneration Education (Soil CARE) Act – formerly the TRAIN Act – would direct NRCS to establish a new training program for agency staff and third-party technical service providers focused on soil health management systems including regenerative, organic and agroecological production systems.
The Peer Learning for Agriculture Conservation Education (PLACE) Act would amend the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to allow RCPP grants to be awarded solely for Technical Assistance (TA) with the goal of educating farmers through peer-to-peer support systems, via cooperative agreements with organizations seeking to facilitate farmer-to-farmer peer learning, and with a focus on soil health and NRCS conservation programs.
STREAMLINING CONSERVATION PRACTICE STANDARDS ACT:
The Streamlining Conservation Practice Standards Act would clarify the process for updating existing and establishing new conservation practice standards and make conservation practice standards more transparent and accessible, thereby ensuring that farmers and researchers have a greater say in what types of practices USDA supports and that those practices will help producers adopt innovative, regionally-applicable practices that regenerate soil more quickly.