Paying farmers and ranchers $100 per acre or $100 per animal unit to adopt conservation practices to help put more carbon in the soil could be a game changer when it comes to helping reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
Rural Investment in Protecting our Environment leaders who are championing the concept say they want to provide additional funding for conservation efforts rather than pulling funding away from existing program.
“We are very committed to not competing with existing farm bill programs,” said Aliza Wasserman Drewes, executive director and founder of RIPE. “We are about expanding economic opportunities and not cannibalizing existing programs that provide a tremendous amount of value.”
Drewes was answering a question in an interview about the possibility of including her organization’s $100-per-acre payments in the next farm bill. The current farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, is scheduled to expire early in 2023.
“We’re certainly open to having it potentially authorized through a farm bill, but that is an important question that we will look to our farm leaders to decide within the next year,” she said.
Carbon credit trading has begun to attract attention because of payments of $12 to $15 an acre to farmers who adopt practices that will keep more carbon in the soil. Many scientists believe removing carbon in the atmosphere is a major step toward reducing global warming and the more extreme weather patterns the earth is experiencing.
Payments of $12 to $15 an acre from purchases of carbon credit offsets by Walmart, Amazon and other conglomerates would be a losing proposition for farmers because they won’t cover farmer costs of planting cover crops, farming no-till or other stewardship efforts, according to Drewes and other leaders of RIPE.
The RIPE Steering Committee includes farmers, ranchers and farm organization leaders from commodity groups as diverse as corn growers in Iowa to cattle ranchers in Texas. Producers representing Arkansas rice and soybean groups also serve on the body.
“We are very proud of our steering committee,” said Drewes. “They lead and guide our policy design and government strategy. We have the Iowa Corn Growers Association, the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, the Arkansas Rice Federation, the National Black Farmers Association, the North Dakota Farmers Union and the Minnesota Farmers Union and others.
“Our board of directors includes a leader from the Minnesota Farmers Union as well as the Iowa Corn Growers. Those are the folks who really lead our thinking, strategy and help shape the policy. We look forward to working with additional stakeholders in hashing out a lot of the details.”
Drewes said RIPE is following the debate over the climate policy funding in the Biden administration’s $3.5 trillion infrastructure proposal, but she doesn’t expect its proposal to take root there.
“This is a longer-term process,” she said. “We know that climate policy will be coming in a wide variety of ways. It’s not in the current legislation. The current legislation has spending proposals of which there are significant climate spending elements.
“Should Congress be interested in including this, our doors are certainly open. We think a pilot program would be a fantastic place for that to happen. If that doesn’t happen, we have many other opportunities to lay the groundwork with other bills.”
To learn more about the RIPE proposals, visit FAQs - Rural Investment to Protect our Environment (RIPE) (riperoadmap.org).