March 2023 Policy Updates

By March 23, 2023Policy

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Agriculture Resilience Act to be Introduced March 28

Let’s get our whole Virginia delegation to cosponsor it!


Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are planning to reintroduce the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) in both chambers of Congress. Like its earlier version introduced into the last Congress in 2021, this is a comprehensive piece of legislation designed to help farmers faced with climate disruption and make US agriculture truly climate-friendly and climate-resilient.  A few key provisions include:

  • Achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from US agriculture by the year 2040 and make this a new statutory goal for USDA research, education, and extension (REE).
  • Establish GHG mitigation, C sequestration, and climate resilience as conservation objectives for USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs.
  • Set aside 1% of USDA conservation funding for technical assistance to help producers mitigate and adapt to climate change.
  • Increase the conservation funding set-aside for beginning, socially disadvantaged, and veteran producers from the current 10% to 30%.
  • Support transition to advanced grazing management on all grazing lands by 2040.
  • Support conversion of 30% of current annual cropland to perennial systems by 2040.
  • Legislative authorization for funding the Climate Hubs and the Long Term Agroecosystem Research (LTAR) network at $50 million per year for each program.


The ARA is intended to be a “marker bill” meaning that the goal is not to pass it into law as a stand-alone, but to integrate its key provisions into another bill – in this case, the 2023 Farm Bill which is currently in development on Capitol Hill with a “due date” of September 30 when the current (2018) farm bill expires.


This year’s ARA has been amended and fine tuned in a few ways including:

  • Adding another statutory goal for USDA REE: “Develop food systems that are healthful, sustainable, equitable, and resilient to extreme weather and other impacts of climate change and other potential intersecting global and national disruptions.”
  • Coordinate Climate Hubs and LTAR for enhance efficacy and information sharing.
  • Increased emphasis on agroforestry and perennial plantings in conservation programs.


Now is the time to get as many co-sponsors in both Senate and House to sign onto the ARA. It will be a heavy lift getting some of its larger financial investments into conservation, research, and outreach to help farmers meet the climate challenge – and the more cosponsors on ARA, the more likely we will see substantial portions thereof in the Farm Bill.


Here in Virginia, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th) is a strong advocate for the ARA and for climate mitigation and resilience through organic and sustainable agriculture.  Both of our Senators – Tim Kaine and Mark Warner – are strong conservation advocates and might be willing to co-sponsor the ARA if they hear from enough of you how important it is.  It may be harder to get some of our more conservative Representatives to sign on, yet it is worth letting your Representative know that you want him/her to co-sponsor the ARA.


What you can do

  • If you are in Rep. Spanberger’s district call or email her or her staff to thank her for supporting the ARA. Her DC office phone number is 202-225-2815. You can also email her Legislative Director Sam Wojcicki,
  • If you are in any other of the districts, urge your Representative to cosponsor the ARA. Tell him/her how climate change has impacted you, your farm, or your community, and how the ARA or any of its key provisions will help.
  • If you are a Virginia voter, call or email each of our Senators to ask them to co-sponsor the ARA. For Senator Mark Warner, call 202-224-2023 or email Taylor Durbin, Legislative Correspondent at For Senator Tim Kaine, call 202-224-4024 or email Jahnavi Patel, Legislative Correspondent at


To learn more about the provisions of the ARA, see this section-by-section summary and list of changes for 2023.


The Next Farm Bill must be a Climate Bill

Add your Name to this Letter to Congress

Deadline extended to April 14


As noted in the preceding item, the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) is a key marker bill designed to provide a blueprint for House and Senate Agriculture Committees to design a 2023 Farm Bill that will take effective actions to address the climate crisis in agriculture.  It aims both to make US agriculture climate-neutral by the year 2040 and to help farmers and communities build resilience to the impacts of ongoing and future climate disruptions.


Thank you to those of you who signed this letter at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) table at our Conference in January, or in response to this notice in the February newsletter.  If you have not signed yet, read on:


Read and sign this letter now to tell Congress: the next farm bill must be a climate bill. The next farm bill is being written now, and we need it to address climate change. Farmers need resources like funding, research, and risk management to implement climate-friendly farming practices. The Agriculture Resilience Act asks Congress to implement these solutions in the next farm bill. Sign on to show your support now:


This letter with its thousands of signatures will be used in ongoing efforts to get as much of the ARA into the 2023 Farm Bill as we can.




Make Inflation Reduction Act Funding Part of Farm Bill Baseline


The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which passed and was signed into law toward the end of last year, contained the nation’s largest-ever investment into climate-mitigating and climate-resilience infrastructure, practices, and services. The IRA investment in climate friendly agriculture amounted to some $20 billion in USDA conservation programs, including $1 billion in technical assistance for farmers seeking to cope better with climate disruption and several billion each for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), specifically to support adoption of climate-smart farming systems and practices.


What happens when this money is spent?  Depending on how Congress shapes the 2023 Farm Bill, this new investment could become part of the baseline for mandatory conservation funding levels (i.e., renewed when the current funding runs our) or it could be “rescinded” (set aside and just go back to past funding levels).  Virginia’s Rep Abigail Spanberger (D-7th), who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, strongly supports making it part of the regular baseline funding so that the investment is continued and potentially expanded into the future.


CSP and EQIP are greatly over-subscribed, meaning that only about one in four farmers who apply are able to enroll in the program, as discussed in this guest blog about conservation funding.  IRA funding can help address this shortfall – especially if it becomes permanent.


What you can do:

  • If you are in Rep Spanberger’s district, thank her for her dedicated efforts toward making the IRA conservation funding part of the regular Farm Bill baseline.
  • Contact our Senators (see above for contact info) to encourage their active support for making the IRA conservation funding investment permanent.
  • If you are in another district, let your Representative know how important it is to our future to make this investment in climate-friendly and climate-resilient agriculture and food systems permanent.
  • If your Representative is Ben Cline (R-6th), note that he has recently been appointed to serve on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. He is thus a key player in annual appropriations decisions around programs that the Farm Bill “authorizes” for discretionary funding up to a certain limit.  These include, for example, the highly successful and beneficial Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, and the Organic Transitions research program (ORG), both of which support vital research into sustainable and organic ag issues including climate.




NSAC Farmers Rally for Resilience was a Big Success!


See this inspiring account of the three days in March, 2023 that some 500 of us spent together in Washington, DC to hear farmers, farmworkers, and advocates speak to the impacts of climate change on their livelihoods and what we can do to make necessary changes; to march together to the Capitol to demand a Farm Bill that addresses the climate and racial justice crises in agriculture, and then to talk one-on-one with key Congressional staff.


And thank you to all of you who were there in person or in spirit!




Other Sustainable Agriculture Policy News and Developments


Local Agriculture Markets Program Funding Available

Apply by May 2


On February 14, the USDA announced some $133 million in funding for Local Agriculture Markets Program (LAMP) projects, including Farmers Market Promotion Program, Local Food Promotion Program, and Regional Food Systems Partnerships.  I apologize for not getting this notice to you in the February newsletter … fortunately, the deadline for applications is May 2, so there is still time for your group or organization to develop a good proposal.  See the NSAC blog on LAMP for details including how to apply.



Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production

A Progress Report


The 2018 Farm Bill established a new USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production and authorized funding up to $25 million per year.  While the program got off to a slow start and annual funding has reached just $8.5 million, significant progress toward program objectives has taken place.  USDA has also provided opportunities for public input on how the program can be improved, and NSAC submitted comments. See this NSAC blog on Urban Ag for more on this relatively new initiative.



Spring 2023 Sustainable Agriculture Funding Opportunities

NSAC publishes “RFA Roundup”


The USDA has published Requests for Applications (RFAs) on a wide range of research and education, nutrition, beginning farmer, equity, and urban agriculture programs.  While some of the deadlines fell in March, others, notably the Organic Transitions Research Program (ORG), Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentives Programs, Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP), and Equity in Conservation Outreach are later this spring.  Click this link for more information.