‘Climate smart’ label spells trouble for farm bill

By Marc Heller | 07/09/2024 06:37 AM EDT

Lawmakers are at odds over how to define climate-friendly farming.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) speaks during a news conference.

Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) on Capitol Hill in February. He says there are many agricultural practices that should be considered climate-friendly. Mariam Zuhaib/AP

Lawmakers looking to use the 2024 farm bill to fight climate change are running into another complication: Not everyone agrees on what makes agriculture “climate smart.”

Shifting definitions — and a reluctance from some Republican lawmakers to utter the term at all except in criticizing it — continue to frustrate efforts to reduce greenhouse gases through certain farming practices.

Democrats and Republicans disagree about whether Congress should try to tailor the farm bill to climate change through conservation programs. Democrats say they won’t accept a farm bill that doesn’t do that, while Republicans say a bill that does would put those programs out of reach for some producers.


Divisions on how to address climate change are one reason the five-year bill may be delayed until after the November elections and possibly into 2025 — two years behind schedule.