Farmers Virtually Fly to Washington to Advocate for Climate Action

The impacts of our changing climate are hard to ignore, especially for two Alliance farmer members; Kaitie Adams, Illinois Community Agroforester for the Savanna Institute (LINK), and Tom Arnold of Arnold’s Farmland. Kaitie and Tom represent the incredible diversity of Illinois agricultural landscape and are committed to being a part of the climate change solution.

Year after year farmers and ranchers across the country experience devastating losses from extreme weather due to the changing climate.  The Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) is an ambitious piece of legislation, a farmer-driven, science based roadmap for reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in U.S. agriculture by the year 2040. 

The ARA tackles the climate crisis from all angles with its’ six Titles:

  • Research
  • Soil Health
  • Farmland Preservation and Farm Viability
  • Pasture-based Livestock
  • On-farm renewable Energy
  • Food Loss and Waste

When the Alliance was asked by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition to assist with their Agriculture Resilience Act Farmer Fly-in, Kaitie and Tom virtually flew into the Legislative Staffers home offices representing  Representative Bustos and Senator Durbin to share why the ARA is important to them and why their Representative and Senator should sign as a Co-sponsor in support. 

Kaitie’s focus as an agroforester is to revitalize the perennial root systems by planting trees all over Illinois not only sequester carbon but to build longer term financial plans through the production of fruit and nut trees in a corn and soy rotation. Her approach supports farmer livelihoods and the local food system. 

Tom shares a passion for agroforestry, but he is more focused on pasture-based livestock, direct-to-consumer sales, and building resiliency on his farm through other forms of conservation.

Aside from their differing operations, both joined the ARA Fly-in and  shared the following on how the Act could positively benefit their fight against climate change.

Tom Arnold, Arnolds Farm – Soil Health, Pasture-based Livestock

Arnolds Farm

During the Fly-in, Tom spoke directly to Yusuf Nekzad, Representative Bustos Staffer who handles agriculture priorities and legislation. Tom painted a picture of his farm that sits in the “heart of beautiful Jo Daviess County.” Arnold’s Farm raises grass and grain finished beef, pork, pastured chicken and Turkey. Tom has a lot of pride as a fourth generation farmer to farm the family’s land, which has been in the family for 130 years! The Arnold’s uses regenerative practices like rotational grazing, crop diversity, planting trees, and living cover. 

Tom tips his hat to the numerous Working Lands Programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that have helped him build soil health on the farm. Tom is all for encouraging a system that “doesn’t fit the monoculture mold, one that benefits the environment and farm profitability.” Which is one of the reasons he joined the Alliance and NSAC for the Fly-in so that he could advocate for the ARA because the bill supports not only getting tools into the hands of farmers but expanding on existing programs, like CSP and EQIP,  that help him battle increased flooding events on his farm.  As a livestock producer, Tom also drummed up support for the numerous provisions under the Livestock Title of the ARA, emphasizing the need for more support to help small, independent meat processors expand their operations. Tom has been direct marketing to consumers for 30 years and explained how important those sales are and why the Livestock Title would be so beneficial to Arnold’s Farm and the countless other livestock producers here in Illinois and across the country.

Kaitie Adams, Savanna Institute – Soil Health, Farmland Preservation and Farm Viability

Kaitie met with Senator Durbin’s staffers, Kevin Lefeber and Todd Atkinson, sharing, “Finally a piece of legislation that not only provides more support and funding to programs that are foundational to my work, but also recognize agroforestry as a leading mitigation strategy.”

Kaitie continued to outline the inclusion of Regional Agroforestry Centers as a standout component of the ARA. Agroforestry centers provide tools for research, education, and information, but are in need of more assistance to help meet the demand — and the ARA provides that assistance. Kaitie also noted that Illinois has an incredible opportunity to build new industries by expanding agroforestry production with the inclusion of a Regional Agroforestry Center which would help the state become a leader in the Midwest for perennial production, new markets, and climate adaptation. 

Tom and Kaitie are here to leave the land in a better condition than they found it, one that is geared towards conserving soils and water, sequestering carbon, farm financial sustainability, and one that focuses on revitalizing the local food system; which represent many of the goals in the ARA.  

We hope to see Senator Durbin and Representative Bustos sign on as co-sponsors to this incredible piece of legislation. The ARA is one of many climate bills, but we need to do all we can to fight climate change.