Georgian Congressman David Scott made history. Growing up in a farming family in the segregated south he became a member of Congress. Her life story is one of resilience, hard work and overcoming adversity. He is now chairman of the United States House Agriculture Committee.
Drawing on his life experience, President Scott can raise awareness of how wise government programs can help farmers build resilience in these unstable economic times.
As President Scott recognizes, these uncertainties are amplified by climate change, which favors more frequent extreme weather events – droughts, floods, heat waves, more intense hurricanes – which affect farms.
Calls for more federal spending to help farmers adapt to climate change are also growing, but spending alone won’t protect farmers, the climate or taxpayers.
With climate-induced disasters posing increasing risks to our society and economy, Washington must harness the proven innovation of America’s agricultural sector. President Scott and his colleagues should support reforms that provide a stable and predictable agricultural safety net that promotes economic and climate resilience for farmers, while protecting federal taxpayers — that’s you and me.
The United States Department of Agriculture should start with increase data sharing among its many agencies. The USDA has a wealth of taxpayer-funded data on the interplay between on-farm conservation practices, crop yields, and safety net costs, but it’s spread across various agencies and apparently kept under wraps. key.
This data silo effectively puts valuable information out of the reach of researchers, state agricultural extension agents, and producers. Farmers shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when considering conservation investments, especially when taxpayers and farmers have funded and tested a range of options.
Additionally, Congress should encourage the USDA to promote effective conservation practices rather than discourage them. Since most lenders will not approve an operating loan without taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance, farmers have an incentive to plant cash crops (corn, cotton, and soybeans) even though cover crops would have better economic and environmental sense. While research shows that long-term application of conservation produces more stable and ultimately increased yields, federal crop insurance does not distinguish between producers who have adopted conservation and those who have not. not done.
We can begin to make the crop insurance program more responsible by supporting efforts to ensure that USDA risk ratings accurately assess the risk reduction benefits of conservation practices. The USDA should also explore innovative financing opportunities for farmers who want to implement conservation but are blocked by bankers and bureaucracy.
The USDA is currently taking steps to create a new program to subsidize “smart climate“goods which would come from the Commodity Credit Company (CCC), an oddly-named entity typically used to distribute agricultural grants and loans.
However, this proposal has several pitfalls. First, the CCC recently balance sheet of politicization and a story of dodging congressional oversight, wasting tens of billions of dollars. Second, given the potential costs, the youth of carbon markets, and the technical complexity of measuring soil carbon, the new initiative may not be successful in mitigating climate change. Finally, experts warn that the increase in subsidies on the current broken farm subsidy system can distort markets and violate international trade agreements while not promoting climate resilience.
Rather, President Scott should pave the way for reform existing farm bill conservation programs to prioritize carbon sequestration and other water and soil benefits. It can help ensure that legislators have a bipartisan contribution to these long-term reforms. If the USDA continues to create a program without congressional input, the new initiative may be scrapped when a new administration takes office, eliminating any potential climate benefit.
With Chairman Scott leading the Agriculture Committee, Congress should reform agriculture and climate policies. Now is the time to enact resilient, climate-friendly policies in an open and transparent manner through the Farm Bill and other legislative processes rather than the executive branch alone.
Real progress takes more than dollars, it also takes change.
Joshua Sewell leads the agricultural reform agenda at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog.
This article originally appeared on Augusta Chronicle: Georgia Rep. David Scott, USDA and the Future of Farm Policy