Democrats are preparing to pour money into federal conservation programs as a key way to pay farmers to address climate change. Converting marginal croplands to grass through the Conservation Reserve Program is one way to do it, but the question is whether USDA can get landowners interested in it again.
Democrats forced a $16.1 billion agriculture stimulus plan through the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday, brushing aside Republican assertions that a provision providing debt relief for minority farmers was far too broad and could face legal challenges.
The House Agriculture Committee will debate a $16 billion stimulus measure that includes a substantial down payment on Democrats’ promise to address racial justice issues. The committee’s draft bill, which will be part of a broader $1.9 trillion stimulus package, would provide sweeping debt relief to minority farmers on USDA loans.
The House Agriculture Committee is adding seven new Republican members. All but one, Texas Rep. Michael Cloud, are first-term members. The others: Kat Cammack of Florida, Randy Feenstra of Iowa, Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota, Tracy Mann of Kansas, Mary Miller of Illinois and Barry Moore of Alabama.
Providing some parting advice on climate policy, House Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson said he was introducing legislation that would require the Agriculture Department to take 50 million acres of cropland out of production through the Conservation Reserve Program.