Fields are covered with flowering potato plants on July 19, 2020, near Fort Fairfield. The vast majority of Maine's thousands of acres of potato farms are located in Aroostook County in northern Maine, which experienced the driest summer on record last year. Credit: David Sharp / AP

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Melissa Law serves on the Maine Climate Council representing the interests of Maine farmers. She is co-owner of Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham.

At Bumbleroot Organic Farm in Windham, we grow certified organic vegetables and flowers for our farm stand, CSA and local restaurant partners with the goal of building resilience on our farm and in our community. As young farmers, we view climate change as the primary threat to our business and our livelihoods. We’re grappling with how to adapt to the unpredictable weather patterns that are already taking place, and how to prepare for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Like farmers and ranchers across the country, Maine farmers are facing chaotic and extreme weather events that make it increasingly challenging to provide food for our communities. Here at Bumbleroot we experienced significant crop loss to mid-season hail storms in 2018, saw increased pest pressure and poor germination of direct seeded crops during the drought of 2020, and are currently coping with disease issues and decreased yields in this season’s fall harvest due to the unseasonably warm and dry spring that was followed by an incredibly wet July. We’re working hard to adjust to the extreme weather events but it is increasingly difficult to keep pace.

As we learned last year from the Maine Climate Council’s Scientific and Technical Committee, these weather extremes will only increase in the future, leading to poor crop and livestock growth as well as heat exhaustion for farmworkers. There is no time to waste. All Mainers will face significant costs if we fail to take action; we have an opportunity and a responsibility to make changes now to address these impacts and transform our food system.

The Build Back Better Act reconciliation package takes direct aim at addressing the climate crisis through investments in climate-friendly infrastructure, practices and programs. Congress needs to ensure that farmers have the support they need to build resilience in the face of rapidly changing weather patterns, to protect and improve our carbon-sequestering agricultural soils, and to strengthen our local food system.

As a member of the Maine Climate Council, I worked to ensure that Maine’s Climate Action Plan set ambitious goals for all of this, including a specific call for increasing the amount of food consumed in Maine that is grown by in-state food producers from just 10 percent in 2020 to 30 percent by 2030 through local food system development. Maine’s congressional delegation must help us achieve the Climate Action Plan goals by embracing the Build Back Better Act.

As the stewards of many important natural resources in Maine and key players in our state’s economy, farmers are committed to protecting the health of our soil and water, our biodiversity, our rural communities and our people. With education and resources directed at climate change adaptation, farmers like us can reduce our emissions, sequester carbon and continue to grow food that nourishes our communities.

The Build Back Better Act is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to support the future of agriculture and our food system. Specifically, we need increased support for conservation and climate-friendly farming programs like the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Reserve Program, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program. These programs help farmers adopt climate-smart practices and improve on-farm infrastructure. Here at Bumbleroot we have benefited from some of these programs directly, however, only 25 percent of the Conservation Stewardship Program applications and 43 percent of Environmental Quality Incentives Program applications in Maine were funded last year.

These are smart investments that would yield real dividends for farmers like us who are trying to provide healthy food for our communities. Now is the time to invest in real solutions to the climate crisis that work for farmers and would result in healthier soils, cleaner air and water, and a climate-smart economy that allows us to feed our communities for generations to come.