RIPE tracks the Congressional policy landscape, and is focused on developing key relationships with policymakers to help them create policy that works for farmers. Here are recent insights we’ve gained.
Congress has proposed a program that would pay producers $25 per acre to plant cover crops - which is a great signal, but does not go far enough. The proposed Build Back Better bill includes a provision for compensating cover crops at $25 per acre, up to 1,000 acres. We applaud legislators for elevating the conversation around the positive impact farmers can have on climate. However, at the proposed payment level, it would not cover the costs imposed by climate policy and many farmers would still incur a net loss of around $12 per acre from implementation costs, since cover crops often cost $37 per acre. The RIPE100 program would build on this program by offering a payment level that surpasses both the full practice cost and the cost of climate policy, offering farmers a reasonable return on their investment. RIPE100 would also eliminate acreage caps, allowing producers to adopt practices at a scale that is right for them. And because RIPE100 complements existing programs, farmers would be able to receive payments from multiple programs, up to the value of public benefits their practices provide.
Despite election year gridlock, lawmakers will be anxious to score bipartisan wins in 2022. While partisan gridlock is the new norm in D.C., there are reasons to be hopeful about 2022. Since 1947, Congress has consistently passed more legislation in election years than in off years. Given the Democratic party's priority to pass climate policy, if farmers mobilize quickly, it could be a year to advance a bipartisan bill. We recognize that it may take longer to organize the coalition, but it also is possible. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle tell us their doors are open to RIPE’s approach. The key variable is how quickly they hear from farm groups about their interest in this pathway.
RIPE’s model fits Vilsack’s goals of a climate-smart ag program that works for farmers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently talked to a RIPE steering committee member and shared his goals for a climate-smart agriculture program. We believe it perfectly fits what RIPE is proposing. He wants USDA to support commodity producers to adopt climate-smart practices in a manner that does not penalize early adopters, provides a premium, offers a simple process and supports increasing productivity to feed a growing global population. RIPE100 does all of this! We will be developing a pilot program proposal for the forthcoming USDA partnership program.