- The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) focuses narrowly on climate-smart agriculture and forestry, leaving out traditional conservation practices.
- The IRA allocates over $18 billion in new funding but restricts eligibility to specific climate-smart practices, as determined by the USDA.
- Traditional conservation practices, which farmers, ranchers, and foresters have long supported, are largely ineligible for IRA funding.
- The IRA’s limited scope could hinder the agricultural community’s broader conservation and sustainability goals.
- There is a push to integrate IRA resources into the 2023 farm bill to create a more permanent baseline for conservation funding.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) has been a subject of much debate within the agricultural community. While the act allocates more than $18 billion for climate-smart agriculture and forestry, it has been criticized for its narrow focus and exclusion of traditional conservation practices. This article examines the implications of the IRA on farmers, ranchers, and traditional conservation programs, drawing on conclusions set forth by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.
The Scope of the IRA
The IRA aims to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and promote carbon sequestration through existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation-related programs. These include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP). However, the act restricts funding to projects that meet specific climate-smart criteria determined by the USDA.
The Exclusion of Traditional Practices
According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, the USDA’s list of eligible practices under the IRA has raised concerns. Many traditional conservation practices, such as prescribed fire, brush management, and irrigation efficiency, are not considered “climate-smart” enough to qualify for additional financial or technical assistance. These practices have long been considered beneficial for the environment and agricultural sustainability but are now left out of the IRA’s funding scope.
The Impact on Farmers and Ranchers
Data from the USDA’s EQIP and CSP programs reveal that most funded projects between 2020 and 2022 do not meet the IRA’s climate-smart criteria. This suggests that the IRA’s narrow focus could significantly impact the agricultural community’s broader conservation and sustainability goals. Farmers and ranchers have expressed their concerns, stating that the IRA overlooks local conservation needs in favor of a one-size-fits-all approach.
The Push for Integration into the Farm Bill
There is a growing effort to move IRA resources into the 2023 farm bill to create a more permanent baseline for conservation funding. However, unless the eligibility criteria are broadened to include other conservation needs, the IRA’s financial resources may fall short of meeting the diverse demands of farmers, ranchers, foresters, and agricultural stakeholders.