Coalition lobbies Congress to spur regenerative agriculture
A newly formed coalition is pushing to ensure that the 2023 farm bill focuses on regenerative agriculture, a practice that advocates say improves soil health, reduces harmful emissions and transforms small farms into profitable businesses.
Regenerate America, a collection of farmers, environmental groups and companies including Ben & Jerry’s, Vans and Applegate Farms, launched a campaign Tuesday urging Congress to help farmers transition to practices that restore the nation’s rapidly eroding soil.
Regenerative agriculture involves a variety of tactics, including livestock integration, composting, crop rotation, cover cropping and avoiding or limiting the use of tilling and pesticides.
The coalition warns that U.S. farmland is losing 5.6 tons of topsoil per acre each year, degradation that it says makes for smaller and less nutritious yields and will eventually pose a threat to the nation’s food security.
Advocates are stressing that regenerative agriculture improves yields and reduces farmers’ input costs, which have risen dramatically over the last year. The practice limits the use of industrial fertilizer, which has seen its price spike after Russia, the world’s top fertilizer exporter, invaded Ukraine.
“This is really an opportune moment we have to take a bipartisan approach to something that solves a lot of our crises, but also allows farmers to get out of the hamster wheel of debt and stop increasing their input costs every year,” said Finian Makepeace, co-founder and policy director of Kiss the Ground, an advocacy group leading the coalition.
Makepeace said that some farmers are reducing their input costs by 30 to 40 percent within two years of implementation. But he noted that most farmers don’t have the expertise to carry out regenerative agriculture or the money to pay for the necessary equipment.
Regenerate America is lobbying lawmakers to dedicate 5 to 10 percent of the farm bill’s funding toward incentivizing regenerative agriculture through education, funding and technical assistance. The last bill, enacted in 2018, only committed about 1 percent of its $867 billion total toward the practice.
“This is what so many farmers want, and they’re kind of just stuck a bit with the current model and they’re not seeing the leadership from the USDA and others enough to feel confident to make some of these transitions,” Makepeace said.
The coalition’s lobbying effort is centered around showing off farms that have successfully implemented regenerative agriculture to key lawmakers and Department of Agriculture officials.
Members of Congress have begun initial discussions on the upcoming $1 trillion farm bill. Senators held their first hearing on the bill late last month in Michigan.