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Agriculture must be central to an economy-wide climate policy

As they consider policies and legislation to curb the effects of climate change, federal lawmakers should both recognise the capacity of American family farmers to mitigate and build resilience to climate change as well as enact funding mechanisms to help them do so.

26 November 2019, at 12:00am

In written comments to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Roger Johnson urged the panel to include recommendations in its pending report that support carbon sequestration on agricultural land. To do this, lawmakers must strengthen the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) voluntary, incentives-based conservation programs; ease on farm energy production and encourage biofuels development; establish new climate-friendly markets for commodities and farm goods; and fund necessary climate research. Congress can fund these programs by enacting a cap-and-trade or similar system.

Johnson reiterated the comments' sentiments in a public statement:

“Agricultural soils hold immense potential to sequester the atmospheric carbon that’s rapidly accelerating climate change. Any successful solution to the climate crisis must strive to fully realise that potential. But the management practices necessary to such a solution are neither free nor simple. Farmers need financial and technical assistance to implement climate friendly practices on their operations, and they should be rewarded for the valuable public service they are providing. To ensure that farmers are appropriately compensated for carbon sequestration activities, we urge the establishment of a funding mechanism like a carbon credit trading system.”

Farmers Union members, numbering 200,000 family farmers and ranchers and rural residents, have long been concerned with the current and future consequences of climate change on agricultural livelihoods and global food security. At the organisation’s 117th annual convention in March, Farmers Union delegates passed a special order of business calling for “immediate and decisive action” to help farmers mitigate and adapt to this crisis.