The Rising Opportunity For Resilience In Rural America
Innovation is at the heart of America’s farm tradition. Having proven over more than two centuries that they can thrive while dealing with uncertainty and unforeseen challenges, adapt to new circumstances often out of their control, and innovate practical solutions to ongoing change, America’s farmers are proven entrepreneurs. Whether it’s rising input costs, fluctuating commodity prices and tariffs, or market disruptions based on events thousands of miles away, farmers are skilled at seizing the opportunities in adversity.
Now the agriculture industry increasingly faces unprecedented challenges from severe and unseasonable weather, putting practices that were effective in past decades in question. Out of necessity, farmers and ranchers are experimenting with and adopting forward-thinking methods to ensure that their operations, both large and small, survive and thrive in the face of these swiftly evolving circumstances.
More than ever, American farmers need the support and freedom to innovate. But U.S. federal farm policies do not sufficiently incentivize, and in many cases hinder, this farmer-led entrepreneurial activity. The 2023 Farm Bill represents a timely and strategic opportunity to greatly increase investment and innovation in new practices and technologies that:
- restore and increase soil health
- reduce farm input costs
- boost crop resilience to extreme weather events while reducing crop loss risk and insurance costs
- store atmospheric carbon and mitigate climate change
- enhance additional ecosystem benefits such as reduced soil erosion and input runoff, improved water and air quality, and increased biodiversity
- bolster economies of hard-hit communities in rural America
These economic and environmental benefits can be achieved through three policies in the 2023 Farm Bill that will incentivize and promote the freedom to innovate that so many farmers are demanding to manage their operations for maximum health and productivity.
The next decade represents a critical window to enact policies that address the climate challenge. It’s imperative that the next Farm Bill helps transform U.S. agriculture to meet 21st century challenges with a framework that robustly incentivizes innovation—and actively partners with the producers, Ag tech, equipment and input companies, consumer product companies and consumers, and other stakeholders who are leading the Ag sector to a new, innovative, and economically sustainable future.
A Report on Three Policy Opportunities
Include The Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act
The 2018 Farm Bill introduced a new program, On-Farm Conservation Innovation Trials, under the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The program included the Soil Health Demonstration Trial (SHDT) program with a specific focus on practices and innovations to improve soil health. Hundreds of farmers and ranchers in nearly all 50 states are now participating in SHDT trials, and many more would like to. As called for in the Healthy Soils Healthy Climate Act introduced in Congress6, the 2023 Farm Bill should greatly expand the SHDT program and make it permanent.
Create And Fund An Advanced Research And Innovation Hub Within the U.S. Department of Agriculture
With the emergence of Ag Tech as a potentially transformational and fast-growing investment sector in recent years—akin to the clean-energy sector in 2009—Congress should create and fund an entity comparable to ARPA-E within USDA to support and accelerate private and academic R&D in future-focused Ag areas such as soil health data collection and measurement; farm robotics; precision Ag management software; and bio-based fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. The new entity should create partnerships with other relevant agencies such as EPA, DOE, DOD and National Labs, as well as land grant universities across the U.S. These federally funded research hubs will bring high-quality jobs, both directly and indirectly through p
Include the Cover Act
Crop insurance has been a cornerstone of U.S. federal agriculture policy and an essential economic safety net for America’s farmers for nearly a century. Under policies administered by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), some 90% of all farmed acres in the U.S. are covered by federal crop insurance. However, some crop insurance policies have become a barrier to best practices and have reduced producers’ ability to innovate for crop resilience in their specific regions and on their individual farms. And the current system costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
E2 is a national, nonpartisan group of business leaders, investors, and professionals from every sector of the economy who advocate for smart policies that are good for the economy and good for the environment. E2 members have founded or funded more than 2,500 companies, created more than 600,000 jobs, and manage more than $100 billion in venture and private equity capital.
For additional insight into E2’s other reports, visit e2.org/reports.