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A clean future could be profitable for farmers

The Center for American Progress says rural communities can make an additional $8 billion a year while moving towards a clean future if Congress doubles its investment in certain 2018 Farm Bill programs.

Senior policy analyst Ryan Richards tells Brownfield adding funds to the USDA’s working lands programs would be profitable for farmers and beneficial for the public.

“Increases to programs like CSP [Conservation Stewardship Program] and EQIP [Environmental Quality Incentives Program] to help invest in soil health where the up-front costs are difficult sometimes for farmers,” he said. “But really, in the long term, they pay off both for crop production and soil health and then also for society in terms of carbon storage.”

The center found if Congress doubled its investment in these and other programs, the average size farm could see an increase of nearly 22 thousand dollars or yearly income.

Richards said currently, a lot of farmers get turned away from USDA programs because of budget constraints.

“What we really do make the case for in this program is increasing the USDA’s ability to support more farmers with programs that already exist,” Richards said.

The center’s deputy director of the climate policy team, Bidisha Bhattacharyya, said farmers can be more efficient while also cutting down on emissions with the help of rural broadband and other programs like the Rural Energy for America Program. The center said REAP provides low-interest loans and loan guarantees to farmers to install solar, wind and the ability to make other energy improvements on their farms while cutting down on fossil fuel usage.

Bhattacharyya said increasing enrollment in farm bill and other USDA programs is a win-win.

“It can be done in a way that’s really, really good for communities and the environment,” Bhattacharyya said. “So, I think that’s the bottom line here. This is a win-win and there’s no false choice here between economic prosperity and climate action.”

She said while emissions need to be net-zero by 2050, the more done within this decade, the better.

The center said more participation in working lands programs could add an extra $3.5 billion to farms and cover crops on 100 million acres could save almost $1.5 billion.

Ryan Richards and Bidisha Bhattacharyya on a clean future

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