Industrial agriculture is a major contributor to environmental destruction and climate crisis. Globally, agriculture contributes nearly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions through forest clearance and land conversion, transportation, animal feedlots, fertilizer use, and other processes. Industrial agriculture is also the leading cause of biodiversity loss worldwide, and it contributes to soil erosion, massive decreases in critically-important insect species, and the contamination of water sources through toxic runoff from chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
After decades of widespread ecological destruction, Congress added a conservation title (Title II) to the farm bill in 1985, to encourage farmers to practice environmentally-friendly practices. Conservation programs have been essential in restoring critical habitats and ecosystems, restoring soil fertility, and conserving water. Many of these practices also serve climate goals by boosting carbon sequestration — the process of taking carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it (especially in soil, forests, and wetlands). In spite of the importance of conservation programs, their funding is consistently on the chopping block in farm bill negotiations.