July 2020 Policy

By July 24, 2020Policy

Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA)

Help us line up co-sponsors for this important legislation


Near the end of February, Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act ( H.R.5861), a comprehensive proposal to help producers meet the challenges of climate disruption and bring the nation’s net agricultural and food system greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to zero by 2040.   The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has launched a nationwide push to recruit cosponsors for the ARA. At this time, the bill has 14 cosponsors including Virginia Representative Gerald Connolly (D-11th).


Some key provisions of the ARA include:

  • Quadruple funding for USDA research and add a new purpose: to help US agriculture reach and exceed the net-zero GHG goal.
  • Strengthen conservation programs, focus on soil health and living cover, restore at least half of the carbon lost from US soils due to unsustainable agriculture.
  • Stop the net loss of farmland, end conversion of prairie or forest to cropland.
  • Establish advanced grazing management on 100% of US pasture and range.
  • Reduce food waste by 75%.


The ARA reflects many of the recommendations in the recently released report by the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. This report, combined with a long list of cosponsors for the ARA, will provide impetus for effective climate legislation related to agriculture in the 117th Congress (2021-22).  For more on this report two June 30 blog posts here and here.   .


Take action:

If you are in Rep. Connolly’s district, call to thank him for his co-sponsorship of this vital bill.

If you are in any other district, call your Representative today and ask him/her to cosponsor HR 5861, the Agriculture Resilience Act.

Top priorities include Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th), chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee, and Reps Morgan Griffith (R-9th) and Don McEachin (D-4th) who served on the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.


For more information on the ARA, see the summary at this link, and the series of NSAC blog posts on different provisions and what they mean for sustainable agriculture and climate resilience.  The most recent blog focuses on USDA Long Term Agroecological Research Network and the regional Climate Hubs, and includes links to four earlier blog posts.

Paycheck Protection Program Deadline Extended to August 8

Improved terms for farmers


Recently, the Small Business Administration has extended the deadline for application to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and modified program provisions to better serve farmers.  Even if the applicant does not meet the criteria for the loan to be fully forgiven, the interest rate is low (1%) and no collateral is required.  For more information including a link to the application form, see the NSAC Blog on PPP.


Congress working on new Pandemic Relief Legislation

What’s in it for farmers, local food systems, and food-insecure households?


Congress is now working on additional legislation to provide economic relief from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. While the House passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act in May, the Senate is just now getting started – but things will move fast.  A number of bills have been introduced that would address the needs of local direct market farmers and their customers – constituencies who were largely overlooked in the last


Food Supply Protection Act (S.3840) – Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) takes a comprehensive approach to sustain and strengthen local and regional food supply chains.  The bill provides funds to build capacity of small-scale meat processors to meet demand; support farmers, farmworkers, farmers’ markets, and producer cooperatives in retooling for safe marketing and delivery during the pandemic; build food bank infrastructure to deliver local produce to recipients; and provide technical assistance in COVID-19 response training throughout the food system.


Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020 (S. 4202 / H.R. 7535) – Sen. Durbin (D-IL) & Senator Duckworth (D-IL); and Rep Kelly (D-IL). Currently, on-line SNAP benefits are available only in a few parts of the US, and only through of large national chains like Walmart. This bill would make on-line SNAP sales available nationally, and provide portals and technical assistance for farmers, farmers markets, and small local retailers to utilize on-line SNAP benefits for their low-income customers.


Take Action:  Call your Senators and urge them to co-sponsor the Food Supply Protection Act (S 3840) and the Expanding SNAP Options Act of 2020 (S 4202).  Here in Virginia, you can reach Senator Tim Kaine’s staff at 202-224-4024 and Senator Mark Warner’s staff at 202-224-2023.  While you may not reach a live person in this time of pandemic, you will have a voice mail option to leave a message for the Senators urging them to support this legislation.


For additional information on these two bills, and several others related to local food, small meat processors, and farm credit, click here.  If you see one or more of these bills that would specifically address your needs, by all means contact your Senators and your Congressional Representative, and tell your story and why you want them to co-sponsor the bill(s).



Clean Lakes, Estuaries and Rivers (CLEAR) Offers 30-year Contracts

Available to Producers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Open for enrollment through August 2 – inquire at your local FSA office


Since 2017, the USDA Farm Services Agency (FSA) has offered a Clean Lakes, Estuaries, and Rivers (CLEAR) program, which compensates farmers for taking land management measures to protect water quality in ecologically sensitive watersheds.  This summer, FSA is offering 30-year contracts through its CLEAR-30 program, specifically in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Great Lakes region.  If you are located within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, you may qualify. For more information, visit the NSAC blog post on the program at https://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/enrollment-opening-soon-farmers-in-chesapeake-and-great-lakes-watersheds-encouraged-to-apply-for-clear30/.


Agriculture Innovations Agenda

June 30 stakeholder listening session a big success


Earlier this year, the USDA Research, Education, and Economics mission area posted a request for input from farmers and other stakeholders on a proposed Agriculture Innovations Agenda (AIA) for making US agriculture more productive while reducing its environmental and climate “footprint” by at least 50% over the next 30 years.  While the AIA outline was “high tech heavy,” the USDA invited farmers and other stakeholders to hold workshops to provide their input as to what research innovations they most need, and set an August 1 deadline for written comments.


In response, NSAC is developing in-depth comments and recommendations, and NSAC members National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) and Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) hosted an on-line stakeholder listening session with 186 participants including 40 farmers and ranchers.  Comments were extremely insightful, aligned with organic and sustainable principles, and eloquently stated.

You can find a summary of the comments at:



The listening session has been recorded and is available for viewing at:



Other NSAC news and blogs


The House Agriculture Appropriations proposed for 2021 did pretty well for family farms. While SARE received only a small increase from $37M to 39M, local food systems programs received substantial discretionary funding, and conservation programs were not cut.


NSAC has updated its Principles on Immigration in Agriculture to reflect current crises facing immigrant farmworkers and the Coalition’s growing emphasis on racial equity.

Thank you!


To all of you who participated in the on-line survey of research priorities for certified and transitioning organic producers, and/or who signed the Farmers’ Letter on Climate Change, we extend our sincere appreciation and gratitude.  Your support will further the cause of developing a resilient, climate-friendly, sustainable and organic farming and food system in the US