Recently passed federal legislation, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), has been making headlines as a huge investment for climate action in the US...
But what does this mean for farmers and ranchers in Oregon?
Federal conservation programs offer one of the few existing opportunities for farmers to receive financial support to implement climate resilient practices. Yet, year after year, Oregon’s farmers and ranchers are rejected from federal conservation programs. There are never enough funds available.
The Inflation Reduction Act will provide a big boost to these federal conservation programs that farmers count on to build climate resilience. It includes billions to support farmers who want to build soil health, protect water, wildlife, and biodiversity, mitigate against drought and climate volatility, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These investments mean cleaner water, healthier ecosystems, and protection against disruption from extreme weather for our food systems.
Investments in climate resilient agriculture in the IRA include:
$3.25 Billion for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
$8.45 Billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
$1 Billion for NRCS Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA)
$4.95 Billion for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
This clear signal that we must begin to invest in voluntary financial incentives for climate resilience is good news for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers – and for addressing the climate crisis. Here in Oregon, major decisions about how these dollars are spent on the ground are made every year during local working group sessions. These sessions are open to the public and typically happen January-March. The schedule is updated online here. If you want to see investments in programs and practices that support climate resilience in your region–please attend!
These federal investments also come at a critical time as Congress is considering incorporating the Agriculture Resilience Act into the next Farm Bill. The bill includes grants to states for soil health which could provide some very real opportunities for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers. We're excited that the concept of addressing climate change and strengthening our food system through investments in resilient farming practices is getting traction at the federal level. Take action today by asking your Members of Congress to cosponsor the bill. Fill out this quick email form.
OrCAN recognizes that federal conservation programs can be challenging for farmers to access, particularly for small farms and historically underserved farmers to access. We’re working in collaboration with producers in our network to make these programs more accessible while also investing our time in creating alternative supports through state policy advocacy, education, and collaboration.
This clear signal that we must begin to invest in voluntary financial incentives for climate resilience is good news for Oregon’s farmers and ranchers – and for addressing the climate crisis.
Beyond conservation $: the IRA and racial justice
From our partners with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition:
“The IRA includes several provisions to provide assistance and support to underserved farmers and ranchers, including beginning farmers, limited resource producers, veterans, and those living in high poverty areas: $125 million is designated for technical assistance for these farmers; $250 million for grants and loans to improve land access; and an additional $250 million for historically marginalized colleges and universities to provide internships and pathways to the agriculture sector or Federal employment.
Notably, the bill also includes debt relief provisions for small and socially disadvantaged producers in a manner designed to address concerns the courts have raised over race-specific debt relief for farmers of color included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The IRA repeals the ARPA provision to write off 120% of debt for socially disadvantaged farmers, and in its place authorizes two streams of financial assistance to support at-risk farmers and ranchers.
The IRA includes several provisions to provide assistance and support to underserved farmers and ranchers, including beginning farmers, limited resource producers, veterans, and those living in high poverty areas
First, the IRA allocates $3.1 billion for debt relief to distressed borrowers of loans administered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), which holds a portfolio that includes approximately 3 percent of total farm loans. Second, the IRA allocates $2.2 billion for financial assistance to farmers and ranchers who are determined to have experienced discrimination in USDA lending programs prior to January 1, 2021. No individual farmer or rancher shall receive more than $500,000 under this provision.
It is not immediately clear how USDA plans to determine eligibility for financial assistance on the basis of discrimination, nor how that assistance will be distributed to eligible farmers and ranchers and whether the amounts specified will be sufficient to meet the need. To swiftly provide needed relief to borrowers promised debt relief under ARPA who are now vulnerable to foreclosure, NSAC urges USDA to issue clear guidance and a plan to implement these relief programs as soon as possible. For additional context and perspective on these provisions, we invite you to read statements from the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Rural Coalition, the National Young Farmers Coalition, Intertribal Agriculture Council, and National Family Farm Coalition.”
For Oregonians interested in learning more about efforts around access to land for historically underserved farmers, check out and support the Black Oregon Land Trust, the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition, Anahuac, and Friends of Family Farmers’ Navigate program. Also visit Oregon Community Food System’s website for more information on organizations working in this space.
It’s far from perfect, but the IRA takes meaningful steps toward addressing the climate crisis.
You can learn more about the Inflation Reduction Act from this Farmer's Guide or this in-depth analysis by our partners at the National Sustainable Ag Coalition, and what the historic climate bill means for farmers and the food system in Civil Eats.