The Biden administration has bolstered the president’s intentions to take on climate change with a fiscal 2022 federal budget proposal that boosts agriculture’s role in taking on the changes that have ratcheted up severe and often violent weather events experienced by farmers, ranchers and forestland owners.
Within the $6-trillion spending plan are major new climate change investments – an increase of more than $14 billion compared to fiscal 2021 – across nearly every agency, including USDA, to restore what the White House calls “the critical capacity needed to carry out their core functions and to take a whole-of-government approach to tackling climate change.”
The budget plan from the White House is a proposal to Congress indicating the president’s budgeting choices. Lawmakers, however, will have the final say in how spending will be laid out in the 2021-22 fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.
Significant to agriculture and those who champion the role of food, feed and fiber producers in generating solutions to climate change, the Biden proposal would increase funding for climate smart agriculture, climate resilience and clean energy by nearly $1.5 billion. The funding would aim to support effective land management decisions and partnerships with local communities and Tribal Nations to address climate adaptation, conservation and ecological resilience. The USDA notes that the money would also be used to address the underlying conditions of drought that are leading to longer, hotter fire seasons.
The budget proposes an increase of $161 million from the FY 2021 enacted level to support a multi-agency initiative that would integrate science-based tools into conservation planning. The funding would facilitate measuring, monitoring, reporting and verifying carbon sequestration, greenhouse gas reduction, wildlife stewardship, and other environmental services at the farm level and on federal lands.
The plan would increase funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) by $50 million annually over 10 years, bringing an additional $500 million to target technology to increase drought resilience for agricultural producers over the decade.
Programs such as EQIP, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), the Conservation Security Program (CSP), and others are important sources for technical assistance and are needed to help communities implement many important conservation measures.
A 20-percent increase – some $647 million – would be injected into agricultural research to develop “science-based and data-driven tools” for farmers.
Within the conservation portfolio, the president’s FY22 budget proposes a funding level of $886 million for Conservation Operations, a $50 million increase to the account that funds conservation planning and technical assistance.
The proposal also seeks to increase adoption of net-zero agriculture technology in the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, calling for $200 million from 2024 through 2027.
Biden spending plan would renew the White House’s support of USDA’s Climate Hubs. The budget proposal would boost spending on the 10 regional facilities by $40 million, boosting their mission to link USDA research and program agencies in their regional delivery of tools and information to agricultural producers and professionals.
On another front, the USDA recently published the 90-Day Progress Report on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry, a document that department officials say represents an important step in President Biden’s January executive order, which stresses the role of farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners in combating the climate crisis and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Department officials say the report reflects the early response from ag stakeholders on how USDA should develop its climate smart agriculture and forestry strategy. They vow to continue to work “in partnership with landowners, producers, state and local governments, Tribes, and other stakeholders across agriculture and forestry” and develop an approach centered on “voluntary incentives that benefit producers and landowners.” SfL generally found the report reflects findings that align well with our previous recommendations. However, a couple of gaps have been noted, including water management, forest health and risk management strategies. We look forward to working with the department as development of these critical programs continues.