A lot has changed since President Trump signed the last Farm Bill into law. Our food system survived a global pandemic but remains strained by global unrest and uncertain input costs. A growing population, rising pressure on natural resources, and unpredictable weather mean farmers increasingly find themselves navigating extreme and recurring threats to their businesses. 

Many of agriculture’s legacy tools and practices were not designed with these conditions in mind and no longer meet the needs of a rapidly changing world. However, the past five years have also seen the development and deployment of a new generation of innovative on-farm solutions that can deliver value on multiple levels and evolve quickly to meet these changing needs. 

There is a growing understanding and belief that we need to look beyond simply the amount of food grown on an individual acre of land when assessing the effectiveness of on-farm practices. 

New solutions offer something that existing polluting technologies cannot: the ability to continuously evolve to deliver value on multiple levels while maintaining or boosting yields.

Many farmers are now evaluating the effectiveness of on-farm tools and practices based on their ability to maintain yields and improve profitability, but also on their ability to actively build the soil health needed to ensure long-term productivity, improve plant uptake of critical nutrients, reduce nutrient runoff and more. 

The Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to further unlock innovation, making that expanded value proposition more widely available to farmers to achieve the bipartisan goal of bringing stability and security to our global food system. 

Take nitrogen as one example. Synthetic nitrogen fertilizers do only one thing – support yields – and the tradeoffs are enormous. Each year, synthetic fertilizers become less accessible and more problematic for farmers, while the industry continues to add new pollution to the natural world.

Microbial nitrogen, on the other hand, gives farmers confidence that crops receive the nutrition they require with a more predictable and productive product that also has minimal environmental impact—advancing bipartisan goals of cleaner air and water, while delivering cost-effective yields with better predictability. It’s manufactured in the U.S. with a streamlined domestic supply chain and is not vulnerable to the wide swings in natural gas prices, further building the resilience of our agricultural supply chains.

Private investment in the research, development and application of innovative technologies across agriculture, including microbial nitrogen, has helped to support more efficient, productive, sustainable and resilient U.S. farms. But federal policy and programs were written with older, less effective tools in mind and need to be modernized to capture the full benefits these new inputs offer.

Simply, the more synthetic nitrogen that is replaced with microbial nitrogen, the more productive U.S. farms will be and the cleaner our water and air will become. Lawmakers can level the playing field for new technologies by changing Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) policies to allow for cost-share of biological fertilizer that addresses nutrient runoff and avoids greenhouse gas emissions. Congress should take similar action for other new, innovative crop input solutions backed by rigorous, scientific trial results that prove their ability to address key challenges in agriculture.

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The Farm Bill can also encourage voluntary biological fertilizer use through pilot programs to demonstrate their impact on a wider scale, including evaluating them beyond yield support alone. This could take the form of a new nutrient reduction program or the inclusion of biological fertilizer into crop insurance cost-share.

The challenges of growing food and fiber are becoming more extreme, and the pendulum swings between conditions like drought, input shortages, and rapid market fluctuations are becoming shorter. Innovative tools continue to be refined and enhanced to offer farmers adaptability in a world where extreme is the norm and rapidly need to be embraced to meet the moment we are in. 

Breakthrough innovations have proven their ability to deliver more holistic value across millions of U.S. acres. Incentivizing practice changes on the farm through established Farm Bill conservation and risk management programs will further expand these solutions and make them accessible to even more farmers. 

This Farm Bill is a critical opportunity to rethink the best policy pathways to achieve the bipartisan goals of bringing stability and security to the global food system in a rapidly changing world, starting at the beginning of the system with the types of inputs we use. 

Karsten Temme is the CEO and cofounder of Pivot Bio.