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The complications of adding climate-smart practices to farm policy

An ag economist says incorporating climate-smart practices into farm policy is complicated and producers are asking for clarity. 

Joe Outlaw with Texas A&M’s Agriculture and Food Policy Center says those programs should be left out of the safety net in the next farm bill. “Not to premiums, not to participation or indemnities. Farmers we work with are worried about the long run implications for crop insurance of tying climate-smart provisions to the policy and it will lead to regional winners and losers depending on the practices that are available.”

Testifying before the House Ag Committee on Wednesday, Outlaw says Congress should add incentives for farmers who cannot participate in carbon programs. “If it is good to sequester carbon, it should also be good to keep carbon sequestered,” Outlaw says. “Many of the producers who responded to my request indicated that they are disgusted with the system that only rewards late adopters.”

Outlaw says he surveyed nearly 700 farmers about the role that conservation plays in their operation.

And, he says, Congress should increase transparency in carbon market programs to protect producers. “For example, signing a carbon contract with at least one current company would require a producer to forego commodity and conservation program benefits on that land,” Outlaw says. “The agriculture industry is in need of guidelines to take the mystery out of current carbon market opportunities.”

He says producers regardless of size, region or crops planted should have opportunities in any new USDA climate program.

He made his comments during a hearing on a 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.

  • Joe Outlaw’s testimony obviously makes sense, as does a push towards organic matter retention and accumulation. The question is how to make that happen in the free market?

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