Conserving Arkansas agriculture: The Inflation Reduction Act
I recently wrote an opinion piece for Arkansas Talk Business & Politics. The following text was published on August 24, 2022.
"Our rain dances have finally come to fruition. After months of crippling drought and triple-digit heat, Arkansas agricultural producers have been blessed with a break from the dry conditions.
But the relief, while welcome, is only temporary. A more promising development for Arkansas farmers and ranchers is the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. This legislative package helps address the root cause of the agriculture sector’s challenges: climate change.
Every year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Arkansas will get warmer. At the same time, our state will experience more severe floods and droughts. We’ll see increased storm damage, significantly reduced crop yields, and struggling livestock. All that will spell trouble for Arkansas’ nearly $20 billion agricultural industry and the 250,000 jobs it supports.
Enter the Inflation Reduction Act. Recently signed into law, this legislative package promotes what’s commonly called “climate-smart agriculture.” Once fully enacted, it’s expected to lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 40% below 2005 levels by 2030, compared to the roughly 27% under current policies. Since its passage, it’s garnered wide-ranging support from environmentalists and farm groups to corporations.
The bill allocates nearly $20 billion in federal funding for sustainable agriculture programs. It encourages farmers and ranchers to adopt practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nitrogen loss or sequester carbon in the soil. The legislation also offers financial support for drought resistance and incentivizes agricultural producers to establish cover crops.
What’s more, the Inflation Reduction Act strengthens existing farm bill conservation programs. The legislation funds the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at $8.45 billion, Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) at $4.95 billion, Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) at $3.25 billion, and Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) at $1.4 billion. These proven, voluntary initiatives will help producers implement conservation practices that enhance land productivity and mitigate climate change.
Extreme weather is wreaking havoc on Arkansas agriculture. The Inflation Reduction Act will help slow the damage. It lays the groundwork for long-term change by promoting climate-smart agricultural practices. But it shouldn’t be a stopping point. We must continue to advance conservation funding in legislation, including the upcoming farm bill, to address climate change, bolster the agricultural industry and protect our state’s economic future."