by Robin Hoy
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) that was signed into law on August 16th has some good news for local farmers, especially those striving to do climate-smart farming. As recent research is finding, climate-smart farming practices can make a huge dent in our greenhouse gas production and play a critical role in removing carbon from our atmosphere. This bill will help local farmers and help us move in that direction. According to the Congressional Research Service, which prepares reports for members and committees of Congress, the following are some of the highlights of the bill that pertain to assistance for local farmers and climate-smart practices.
- Grants and loan guarantees for beginning farmers, veterans, limited-resource producers and farmers living in high poverty areas. It also provides debt relief for distressed farm borrowers.
- Increased investments in existing USDA programs under the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to help farmers, ranchers and landowners adopt climate-smart conservation practices that enhance landscape resilience, eg. activities that improve soil carbon storage or decrease emissions of nitrous oxide or other GHG emissions, including practices to reduce livestock fermentation’s methane emissions. The investments are through the USDA’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA).
- Competitive grants and loan guarantees for renewable energy systems or energy efficiency improvements to farmers, ranchers, municipal utilities, and rural small businesses.
- Grants to increase the sale and use of agricultural commodity-based fuels and advanced biofuels and to improve the infrastructure for blending, storing, supplying, or distributing biofuels. It also extends tax incentives for biofuels, including biodiesel and renewable diesel.
For a summary of the IRA, see the Congressional Research Service summary or the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report. For more on climate-smart farming practices, see the USDA’s NE Climate Hub.