April 2022

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Producer-Led Climate Policy That Works For Producers

Former USDA Leaders: RIPE Is The Way Forward

headshots of Martin Barbre, Brad Karmen and Kevin Norton

We recently sat down with three former USDA leaders with a combined 80 years of experience to learn more about why they support the RIPE100 policy.

In the first of the two-part series, RIPE Vice President and former Risk Management Agency Administrator Martin Barbre, former USDA Assistant Deputy Administrator for Farm Programs Brad Karmen, and former USDA Associate Chief for Natural Resources Conservation Service Kevin Norton share their thoughts on why the groundbreaking RIPE100 policy is so important.

Why should producers support the RIPE100 policy?

Martin: Producers should support RIPE100 because it provides the financial incentive to allow them to use and adopt environmentally positive practices in their operations. Farmers and ranchers are more than willing to incorporate these practices into their operations but quite often the cost of implementation is a huge deterrent. Producers shouldn’t risk their livelihood to incorporate practices that might have a short-term negative financial effect. Today’s cost-share models just don't provide enough financial help to get them “over the hump.” RIPE100 also includes the “early adopters” while most current carbon programs only include new actors.

Brad: Traditional conservation programs provide producers and ranchers with cost-share payments that are almost always below their out-of-pocket costs. This results in low participation. RIPE offers a paradigm shift to encourage universal voluntary participation by paying producers a minimum of $100 per acre or animal unit for voluntary land stewardship that provides a greater benefit to the public through carbon sequestration, improved soil health, cleaner water, water conservation, flood mitigation, pollination, biodiversity, and other environmental services. It’s a win for producers and the environment.

Kevin: RIPE100 is a new way to incentivize and reward producers for using high-impact conservation practices. We can’t let the status quo get in the way of creating and adopting a new vision. I believe RIPE100 can greatly move the conservation needle to the benefit of producers and communities that thrive off the stewardship of our natural resources.

Check back next month to read their responses to a question we often hear from producers: Is this policy realistic?

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Welcome, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association!

“Our goal of creating a climate policy that benefits all agricultural producers makes it crucial that a range of perspectives are represented on our steering committee,” said RIPE Executive Director Aliza Wasserman-Drewes. “The addition of MSCA as the first livestock organization to join our steering committee expands the committee’s diversity and brings an important viewpoint to the conversation.”

He previously worked at the National Association of Counties (NACo) as the legislative director for agriculture and rural affairs and environment, energy and land use. Before NACo, he worked at the National Association of Conservation Districts as the natural resource policy specialist. Adam started his career working for a U.S. representative where he was responsible for the natural resources portfolio. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Rochester in New York. Welcome, Adam!

Learn about the entire RIPE team.

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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 the latest insights.

Congress passed an appropriations bill for 2022, but climate-smart support stuck in a broken cost-share model. The legislation provides $1 billion for conservation programs and $3.5 billion for agricultural research, in addition to funding to accelerate climate-smart agriculture practices. However, funding for conservation still relies on a cost-share model that leaves most producers with a net monetary loss. At RIPE, we advocate for new funding that offers producers a reasonable return for their environmental contributions.

The future of Build Back Better remains uncertain, but even if passed, it limits climate-smart programs to cost-share programs and producer participant restrictions. If policymakers find common ground and restart negotiations, it is unknown if the original $28 billion for conservation programs will be included in subsequent legislation. But even if they are included, they are only investing in existing NRCS programs that are restricted to cost-share (e.g. EQIP) and/or preventing all producers from participating regardless of prior actions (e.g. CSP). Looking beyond Build Back Better, RIPE continues to advocate for conservation funding that surpasses cost-share and recognizes the stacked public value of agricultural practices.

The USDA has granted a four-week extension for the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Funding Opportunity. RIPE is using this time to hone a pilot proposal for this opportunity that would test and refine the RIPE100 program. If you or your organization would like to include a letter of support in the RIPE pilot proposal, please see below.

Tell USDA: We want a climate policy that works for producers!

We’re preparing a grant proposal asking the USDA to support a RIPE100 pilot program, which would pay producers $100 per acre or animal unit. This is an exciting first step in making this policy — which would offer a reasonable return for conservation efforts and be accessible to all producers — a reality.

Help shake up the status quo and advance the RIPE100 policy! Click below to read a letter of support and add your name today. We’ll send it to the USDA with our proposal. Thank you!

Tell the USDA You Support a RIPE Pilot
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A Closer Look at Nutrient Management

RIPE’s researchers continually work to expand the set of practices that would qualify for $100 per unit payment under the proposed RIPE100 program by collecting research that demonstrates the combined environmental value of climate-smart practices.

This month, we’re highlighting nutrient management (NRCS Code 590). Nutrient management, which includes properly applying manure to land, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and provides additional environmental benefits valued at over $750 per acre per year.

We found that farmers and ranchers who adopt nutrient management provide over $750 per acre in air quality benefits. They also improve water quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 0.2 metric tons per acre. Review our methodology and sources for this practice here.

See the full list of RIPE’s qualifying practices here.

Chart showing that nutrient management provides robust environmental benefits

Please take a few moments to share your thoughts in this month’s survey, where we ask for your input on the self-verification process, compensation for using the COMET-Farm tool as a pilot program participant and more. Thank you for sharing your thoughts to help build a program that works for all producers!

Start Survey

Private Environmental Market Is a Nice Start, But Insufficient to Cover Producer Costs

Private water and carbon markets have the potential to offer ag producers $14 billion in ecosystem service credits, according to a report commissioned by Ecosystem Services Market Consortium. We at RIPE are supportive of private market opportunities and all revenue opportunities for producers. However, we estimate that climate policy will cost agricultural producers around $56 billion, considering higher input prices plus the costs of implementing conservation practices. That’s why we’re focused on ensuring national climate and environmental policy doesn’t leave producers with only a private sector option that will leave most producers at a net loss. We need a public program that complements the private market.

Chart displaying producer costs for climate versus the private market size

You’re Invited!

Our next RIPE webinar is Thursday, April 21. Join us to learn more about the policy. Invite others to attend!

Invitation for RIPE100 policy proposal webinar - Feb. 23

Have you already attended a webinar? Are you ready to help advance the RIPE100 policy? We’ve got you covered! Watch the video below to learn 3 ways you can get involved in to help make this concept a reality!

RIPE Is Gaining Steam! Here’s How You Can Get Involved.

In the News

If you’re a podcast listener, you’re in luck, because we’ve been fortunate to have exciting coverage on multiple podcasts in recent weeks! RIPE Executive Director Aliza Drewes talked about the policy and the importance of soil health on the Southern Plains Podcast. She also joined steering committee member Ed Kessel live from the Commodity Classic in New Orleans on Ag Central Radio Network. You can also catch RIPE VP Martin Barbre and steering committee member Jim Whitaker on the 14th & G podcast discussing the RIPE100 plan. In addition to podcasts, Dakota Radio Group also shared that the National Black Growers Council recently joined our steering committee.

Stay connected with us on Facebook and Twitter — and be sure to tag us in your posts with #RIPE100 so we can reshare!