WASHINGTON, April 12, 2017 - As President Donald Trump weighs the merits of keeping the United States in the Paris Agreement, the National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the administration to maintain U.S. commitments to global leadership on climate change. The Paris Agreement is vital to enhancing the climate resiliency of family farm operations and rural communities, and it allows family farmers and ranchers to join carbon sequestration efforts that stimulate economic growth in rural America, the organization told Agri-Pulse.

The President is expected to make a decision on whether to stay in the Paris Agreement by late May. NFU has been an adamant proponent of the agreement since its adoption in 2015.

“Farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and they have been experiencing costly disruption from climate change for some time,” said NFU President Roger Johnson in a letter to President Trump today. “We ask that you maintain our existing commitments under the Paris Agreement. The contributions rural communities can make under the agreement will drive economic growth in the countryside and make American agriculture more resilient to extreme weather.”

The United States, under the Paris Agreement, has a current target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26-28 percent by 2025. Many of the actions that would help the country achieve that goal would create jobs and stimulate economic growth in rural communities.

“In particular, incentives to encourage farmers, ranchers and forest owners to sequester more carbon would benefit rural communities,” said Johnson. “Those new revenue streams create new jobs and give young people another reason to stay on the farm and in small towns. They could also serve as an innovative part of addressing an emerging farm crisis before it reaches full maturity.”

Johnson added that other means of achieving the U.S. Paris commitments could also help the countryside, including an increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and community planning that protects farmland. He also noted that biofuels and increased biomass in the energy sector offer a growing market for agricultural products, creating a growth opportunity for the farm economy and dependent rural businesses.

Johnson asserted that the overall positive impact the Paris commitments would have on rural communities and American agriculture warrant digging in on and discussing difficult issues brought about by the Agreement. This includes efforts to decarbonize the power grid, which will be challenging for coal-powered rural power generation, and reducing agricultural methane, which would be ineffective to administer and counterproductive.

“We should not dispose of the Paris commitments in their entirety for the purpose of avoiding confrontation on a few controversial issues,” said Johnson. “NFU asserts the value of seeking agreeable paths forward on rural power generation and livestock methane.”

Earlier this week, Italian officials blamed the United States for the failure of the G7 energy ministers to sign a joint statement on energy policy.

Italian officials had wanted language reaffirming the G7′s clear commitment to the Paris climate change accord and decarbonization – a view shared by the other G7 nations except the US.

But the U.S. has not taken a position on the Paris climate agreement – and officials hope that the situation might be clearer by the time G7 leaders meet in Sicily, next month.

“It was a very constructive debate with the US, there was no friction,” Mr Calenda told the Financial Times. “We respect the fact that the US is re-analysing its position”. On many of the other points, such as opening up the global gas market and securing energy sources from cyber-attacks, officials said there was convergence. A deal on the side to monitor gas flows through Ukraine was also agreed.

For his part, Energy Secretary Rick Perry issued a statement after the meeting, saying that “renewables will continue to have an important role but traditional sources are still needed for energy and economic security into the foreseeable future.

Therefore, we believe it is wise for countries to use and pursue highly efficient energy resources.  They include:

  • High efficiency, low-emission coal and natural gas with adequate financing from multi-lateral development banks and private sector investment.
  • Advanced civil-nuclear technologies that are proliferation resistant, produce little to no waste and ensure safety.

“Innovation is also a top priority for the Trump Administration,” Perry said in a statement. “We are committed to developing, deploying and commercializing breakthrough technologies and developing the necessary policies that will help renewables become competitive with traditional sources of energy.”