Farmers petition Congress: “Address climate change to protect our food system”
By Alex Amonette
“Our food system is incredibly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.” That’s the sobering first line of a new petition to Congress, introduced by the National Farmers Union earlier this month. The petition calls on Congress to use the 2018 farm bill as an opportunity to enhance climate resiliency and mitigate climate change.
Climate puts crops at risk
The NFU represents 200,000 farmers and ranchers across the USA. Some American farmers and ranchers, whether NFU members or not, have already experienced extreme weather events that have adversely affected their crops and livestock. In Louisiana, the August severe storms and flooding cost many farmers their rice crops. In California, now in its fifth year of drought, more than 95 percent of the state’s $43-billion agricultural sector was experiencing severe, extreme, or exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
It’s a risk too great to be ignored. “Farmers and ranchers are on the front lines of climate change, and consumers stand to be affected greatly—whether through food prices or quality—by the adverse effects of climate change,” says Thomas Driscoll of the NFU.
Greg Page, former CEO of Cargill, stated, “The effects of climate change on agricultural production projected in the recent reports from the IPCC, the National Climate Assessment and even more regionally, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, all point to significant risks regarding climate change and its potential impact on food production. Regardless of one’s view on climate change and its causes, it’s irresponsible for us not to have this discussion and this debate, or to take these projections lightly. We are not talking about some condo in Florida getting a wet basement because the sea level rose. We are talking about feeding and nourishing an entire world.”
Focused on solutions
This new petition isn’t the NFU’s first attempt to address climate change on behalf of its members. NFU has a toolkit that educates and empowers folks to lobby Congress so the next farm bill has a big impact against climate change. NFU also educates farmers and consumers about climate change and adaptation measures—from composting to no-till farming to prescribed grazing—via its Climate Leaders website. CCL applauds the NFU for these efforts, as well as those of other business and congressional leaders who are working to combat climate change.
And of course, there are a number of policy solutions out there: regulations, subsidies, cap and trade, carbon taxes, and the revenue neutral Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFD). Of those, only the CFD aligns with what the broad majority of farmers and ranchers want: maintaining our share of the global market, protecting consumers, and having time to make gradual changes to reduce our carbon footprints. The CFD is also a solution that could find broad support, such as with the American Farm Bureau Federation, which supports market-based solutions to climate change.
Until then, a good next step is to strengthen the farm bill so it will “engage all stakeholders in the food system in the battle to adapt to and help mitigate the effects of climate change,” as the petition says. Farmers, ranchers and consumers, no matter their political affiliation, need to work together to demand that Congress act responsibly and address the challenge of our changing climate.