Keeping Arkansas Agriculture: The Inflation Reduction Act
Our rain dances finally came to fruition. After months of crippling drought and triple-digit heat, agricultural producers in Arkansas have been blessed with a break from the dry conditions.
But the relief, while welcome, is only temporary. A more promising development for farmers and ranchers in Arkansas is the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. This legislative package helps tackle the root cause of the agricultural sector’s challenges: climate change.
Every year, the US Environmental Protection Agency says Arkansas will get warmer. At the same time, our state will experience more severe floods and droughts. We will see an increase in storm damage, a significant reduction in crop yields and struggling livestock. All of this will cause problems for Arkansas’ nearly $20 billion agricultural industry and the 250,000 jobs it supports.
Enter the Inflation Reduction Act. Recently enacted, this legislative package promotes what is commonly referred to as “climate-smart agriculture”. When fully enacted, it is expected to reduce US greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% from 2005 levels by 2030, compared to about 27% under current policies. Since its passage, it has garnered broad support from environmentalists and farm groups to business.
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 losses or that sequester carbon in the soil. The legislation also offers financial support for drought resistance and incentivizes agricultural producers to establish cover crops.
In addition, the Inflation Reduction Act strengthens existing farm bill conservation programs. The legislation funds the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) at $8.45 billion, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) at $4.95 billion, the Stewardship Program Conservation Easements Program (CSP) at $3.25 billion and the Agricultural Conservation Easements Program (ACEP) at $1.4 billion. These proven voluntary initiatives will help growers implement conservation practices that improve 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 foundation for long-term change by promoting climate-smart agricultural practices. But that shouldn’t be a stopping point. We must continue to advance conservation funding in legislation, including the upcoming farm bill, to fight climate change, strengthen the agriculture industry, and protect our state’s economic future.
Editor’s note: Hallie Shoffner is a sixth-generation farmer, CEO of SFR Seed, a soybean and rice seed farm in Newport, and blogger FarmerHallie.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.