Underwood, Gallagher Introduce Bipartisan Climate Change Legislation to Support Farmers on the Frontlines of the Climate Crisis

April 12, 2021
Press Release
The Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act would support and promote agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration.

WASHINGTON— Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14) and Congressman Mike Gallagher (WI-08) introduced bipartisan climate change legislation to support farmers and ranchers on the frontlines of the climate crisis. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is well-positioned to support agricultural producers’ efforts to address climate change through existing voluntary, incentives-based programs, like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). CSP already covers practices that sequester carbon and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; however, the program currently does not provide the option of bundles for producers who want to implement integrated climate change mitigation systems on their land. 

To expand farmers’ options, the Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act directs NRCS to establish region-specific climate change mitigation bundles within CSP to support and promote agricultural practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase carbon sequestration. This will help producers expand their climate stewardship practices and empower more farmers to be leaders of America’s response to climate change.  

“With unprecedented flooding and delayed planting seasons, northern Illinois farmers have seen the impacts of climate change first-hand and will play an invaluable role in fighting the climate crisis in our communities,” said Rep. Underwood. “I’m introducing the Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act to provide Illinois farmers with more resources to expand their climate stewardship practices and to ensure farmers are fairly compensated for their contribution to our nation’s climate solutions.” 

“In Northeast Wisconsin, farmers play an important role in our community’s conservation efforts. Now more than ever, it’s important we provide them with expanded resources to continue their work to help preserve our environment,” said Rep. Gallagher. “I’m proud to join Rep. Underwood in introducing this bill and look forward to finding more ways to support farmers as they implement more sustainable practices.” 

NRCS’s Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) currently provides technical and financial assistance to agricultural producers, supporting both the active management of ongoing conservation practices and the adoption of new conservation activities over the course of 5-year contracts. Comprehensive groupings of conservation activities under CSP, known as bundles, result in a more competitive CSP contract and receive a higher level of financial assistance to encourage a holistic approach that maximizes conservation benefits.  

A fact sheet on the legislation can be found here. 

The Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act is endorsed by the Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois Corn Growers Association, Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council, Union of Concerned Scientists, League of Conservation Voters, Shedd Aquarium, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Working Group, Dairy Business Association, and Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative.


“Illinois Farm Bureau endorses Rep. Underwood’s bill and thanks her and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) for their bipartisan leadership in recognizing that bundling USDA Conservation Stewardship Program practices can help farmers sequester more carbon, improve soil health, and help address the challenges of a changing climate,” said Richard Guebert, Jr., farmer and Illinois Farm Bureau president. “In her time in Congress, Rep. Underwood has been very responsive to the needs of farmers in the 14th District and across Illinois. Illinois farmers like the flexibility of the Conversation Stewardship Program, and this bipartisan bill will provide farmers additional incentive to participate in USDA soil health programs and build on their already strong record of producing food while reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint.”


"NSAC is proud to endorse the Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act and wish to thank Representative Underwood (D-IL) for emphasizing the importance of CSP in supporting farmers and ranchers in their climate mitigation efforts. This bill would enhance the program's climate mitigation potential through the creation of bundles, suites of conservation practices, that farmers and ranchers would be able to choose from to improve soil health and increase carbon sequestration, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their operations,” said Eric Deeble, Policy Director, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). 


"Farmers have found that layering conservation practices is the best way to build healthy soil that captures carbon and protects our drinking water. This bill brings NRCS programs in line with the on-farm practices that have the best potential to mitigate climate change on working lands. More farmers will be able to access and afford a suite of conservation tools tailored to their needs and unique to their operation. There's no time to waste,” said Liz Moran, Executive Director, Illinois Stewardship Alliance. 


“Transforming our agriculture sector from a climate problem to a climate solution is vital in the fight against the climate crisis,” said Allison Johnson, Sustainable Food Policy Advocate at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act advances climate-friendly farming, including organic and regenerative practices, that can help pull carbon out of the atmosphere, and build a healthy, equitable, and resilient food system.” 


“The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) is already extremely effective, returning an estimated $4 in benefits for every dollar taxpayers invest in it,” said Marcia DeLonge, Research Director for the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Farmers Fighting Climate Change Act promises to increase CSP’s value by helping more farmers and ranchers combat the climate crisis, and by providing data and insights that could make the program more equitable. Representative Underwood’s bill is an important part of a broad policy framework we need for a more just, resilient, and sustainable food and farming system.” 


“It’s a win-win for our climate and American farmers,” said Renee Albrecht, Private Lands Policy Analyst with Defenders of Wildlife. “By taking steps to limit emissions and reduce their carbon footprint, farmers can potentially increase their income from the Conservation Stewardship Program while also reducing emissions. Defenders of Wildlife is pleased to support this bill and we thank Rep. Underwood for her leadership.” 


“Across the Midwest, our farmers are experiencing the daily impact of the growing climate crisis. This most often takes the form of extreme weather, like heavy rainfall, and leads to flooding which can carry toxic runoff into our waterways. From native fish in the Great Lakes to shrimp downstream in the Gulf of Mexico, toxic runoff and algae blooms can have devasting effects on aquatic systems,” said Andrea Densham, Senior Director of Conservation Policy and Advocacy at Shedd Aquarium. “By working with business leaders, farmers, neighbors, elected officials, and scientists, we can unify our unique skills, greatest innovations, and hard work to tackle climate change. We applaud Congresswoman Underwood’s Conservation Stewardship Program Farmers Fight Climate Change Act that brings us together to advance sustainable climate solutions for our future.”