The Biden administration released a $6.8 trillion budget proposal last week that could propel more farmers toward cover crops and other conservation agriculture practices if approved.
The Fiscal Year 2024 Budget requests $30.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for the Department of Agriculture in 2024, a $3.8 billion or 14% increase from the 2023 enacted level. The budget provides for $208 million more than the 2023 enacted level to boost conservation and agriculture income on private land through the NRCS. The proposed budget is attempting to add to past investments through the Inflation Reduction Act with the hopes of ultimately increasing voluntary cover crop usage and other conservation farming practices that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve carbon sequestration.
The NRCS would use federal, state and private conservation funds to hire thousands of employees. Employees would also play a role in assisting climate researchers, a measure that would also be funded by the proposed budget. Additionally, the budget proposes making the USDA's cover crop pilot program permanent.
China is the world's no. 1 one funder of agricultural research ad development, according to the text of the proposed budget. The budget would provide over $4 billion in agricultural research, education and outreach funds. It also allocates $7 billion for climate related funding with $612 million going toward the department's core climate-related research and development activities, including the impacts of weather and water cycle variations on air, soil and water resources necessary for significant agricultural productivity.
The Budget would also provide the USDA with the adequate staffing resources to successfully implement the 2023 Farm Bill.
Mike Lavender, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), says the proposal would fully fund the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program at $60 million and provides an additional $900 million for conservation tech assistance (CTA).
Lavender voiced simultaneous appreciation and disappointment for different aspects of Biden's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024.
“This year’s Presidential Budget Request calls for modestly increased investments in a variety of programs that support farmer livelihoods, climate resilience, local and regional food systems, and urban agriculture," Lavender says. "Most notably, we are encouraged to see the Administration’s strong support for full funding of the SARE program at $60 million. Similarly, the budget proposes a much-needed increase for Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) up to $904 million in FY2024 – an essential component of supporting the adoption of climate-friendly conservation practices. Unfortunately, despite the increase to CTA, the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative (GLCI) – which is funded through CTA – is zeroed out for FY2024, potentially withdrawing vital support and tools for grazers that are working to address climate change by building more management-intensive rotational grazing systems on the landscape."
Jim Wiesemeyer, a policy analyst for ProFarmer, tells AgFax that Democrats in the Senate and the House of Representatives will review Biden's proposal and only draft proposals of their own if they don't align closely enough with that of the president. Meanwhile, Paul Neiffer, a certified public accountant in agriculture, believes there is a slim chance that much of the proposal will pass, due to the House of Representatives being majority Republican.