Since Seth Kroeck began farming 20 years ago in Brunswick, growing food has become more difficult and more expensive.

“If you’re farming, there’s no way you’re not seeing and being impacted by the changes of climate change,” said Kroeck, who runs Crystal Spring Farm.

Seth Kroeck, manager of Crystal Spring Farm, is hopeful that legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree would help reduce carbon emissions. Times Record file photo

When Kroeck started raising vegetables and blueberries, Maine farmers often didn’t have to water crops. Now, it is a necessary expense, he said. Farms without irrigation “are really in peril.”

In other parts of the country, there are no longer seasons for hurricanes, flooding, tornadoes and wild fires. Those tragedies are happening throughout the year.

Kroeck said he’s hopeful that legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree would help change farming and the food system to reduce some of the carbon emissions that are causing climate change.

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges for farmers and the food system, Pingree said, and farmers are on the frontlines dealing with severe droughts, flooding, wildfires and other extreme weather conditions.


U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree is planning to reintroduce the “Agricultural Resilience Act” to help farms reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2040. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer, file

On Tuesday, Pingree, an organic farmer and member of the House Agriculture Committee, is planning to reintroduce the “Agricultural Resilience Act” to help farms reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2040. She hopes the ARA will become part of the omnibus 2023 Farm Bill. If not included in the Farm Bill, parts of her proposal could end up as independent legislation, the Maine Democrat said during a phone interview.

“There are a variety of ways in agriculture that farmers can be partners in taking carbon out of the atmosphere,” Pingree said. A big part of the ARA is about soil health. When farmed correctly, soil can be a weapon to fight climate change by drawing and storing carbon dioxide, Pingree said. The legislation proposes to improve the health of soil and hold more carbon with different practices, such as using more organic materials, compost, planting a cover crop over a root crop, like potatoes, and no tilling – an agriculture technique that disturbs the soil.

And, she said, “there are very climate friendly ways to raise animals,” such as more livestock grazing on pastures than being fed in industrial food lots.

If ARA becomes part of the Farm Bill, the federal government would help farmers, food chain system operators and consumers change practices to reduce climate change pollution.

For instance, the ARA would protect farmland and farm viability by increasing funding to make farmland affordable to younger generations and help farmers reach new markets. Every time a farm is converted to pavement, housing or other development, “you lose that acreage,” Pingree said. In addition to losing farms, “you lose the ability to hold and store carbon in the soil.”

The ARA proposes to boost investments on farms allowing them to use less fossil fuel by converting to renewable energy, such as wind power and solar panels on barns.


Another big part of the agriculture act would provide more research into ways to reduce climate change in agriculture and reduce food waste with better federal standards. Pingree is proposing a new U.S. Department of Agriculture program to reduce food waste by everyone, including consumers.

“We all waste food. We can always do something about that,” Pingree said.

Better labeling is one way. Existing labels that say “best when sold” can be construed to mean the food is not good when it is, she said. A shocking statistic is that more than 30% of food in the U.S. is wasted.

When food can’t be salvaged, it should be composted, she said. When food ends up in landfills it turns into methane gas, “a deadly gas in the atmosphere and totally unnecessary,” Pingree said.

There is no price tag for the Agricultural Resilience Act yet, but Pingree said not making changes to mitigate the effects of climate change will cost more.

In Maine, Kroeck, the Brunswick farmer, said growers depend on what used to be the normal farming schedule to plan for the first frost, the last frost and when to plant. Now, “all of those things are fluctuating,” he said. “We’re getting all of our rainfall in few events … Then we’re getting long stretches that we get no rain at all.”

Everyone has to make major changes, Kroeck said.

“Otherwise we’re going to be losing farmers, losing farm land and just losing our ability to feed ourselves.”

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