As discussions and debates over climate change legislation and policy heat up in Congress and in the federal government, nearly two dozen major farm groups announced a coalition today to ensure the views of U.S. agriculture are well represented.
“We want to be at the table to make sure farmers’ story is told,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said.
Farmers for a Sustainable Future includes AFBF, National Farmers Union, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and a host of commodity groups. At a Capitol Hill event Wednesday, FSF members said it was important to ensure decision-makers and the public are not misled by “misinformation” accusing U.S. agriculture, and the livestock industry in particular, of contributing more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than the facts support.
Agriculture accounts for about 9% of overall GHG emissions in the U.S., with beef cattle at about 2%, according to EPA figures.
Climate change is getting more attention on Capitol Hill, where House Democrats are close to introducing legislation and Republicans are considering doing the same. Meanwhile, USDA is taking a more proactive approach, recently releasing a science “blueprint” prominently featuring climate adaptation.
A principal goal of FSF will be information-gathering and dissemination. “This coalition will serve as a primary resource for lawmakers and policymakers as they consider climate policies,” the group’s news release says.
In addition, “FSF’s guiding principles call for policies that support science-based research, voluntary incentive-based conservation programs, investment in infrastructure, and solutions that ensure vibrant rural communities and a healthy planet.”
The coalition has no overall pollution reduction goals but seeks greater adoption of practices that are already working, like cover crops and no- or low-till practices, and more research “to help farmers and ranchers achieve greater efficiencies and enhance sustainability,” according to a “principles” document.
At the event Wednesday, Duvall and representatives from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, USA Rice Federation and the National Cotton Council touted their growers’ increasing adoption of sustainable practices.
NCBA’s Ethan Lane said U.S. beef has a much lower carbon footprint than the industry in the rest of the world — 10 to 50 times lower, in fact.
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But more can be achieved, he said: “The U.S. cattle industry is committed to constant improvement.”
The coalition presented charts showing a general downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions for corn, soybean, cotton, rice, beef, pork and milk production. Ben Mosley, vice president of government affairs at USA Rice, said since 1980, rice farmers have cut their water use by 52% and greenhouse gas emissions by 41%.
Carbon markets can play a role in improving sustainability, Duvall said. “We think there’s opportunities there to provide incentives for farmers to participate,” he said. The principles document says FSF supports “market-based solutions, led by farmers and ranchers, that improve rural communities while recognizing the diversity of agricultural practices, climates, challenges, and resources needs.”
An FSF fact sheet also touted the use of ethanol and biodiesel, which in 2018 “reduced GHG emissions by 71 [million metric tons] — equivalent to 17 million acres off the road.”
Other groups that are members of the coalition: American Pulse Association, American Sugar Alliance, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Sorghum Producers, National Milk Producers Federation, Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, United Egg Producers, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Council and the USA Dry Pea and Lentil Council.
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