Congress Now Offers Venues for Ag to Address Threats from a Changing Climate

November 15, 2019

The testimony of SfL Co-Chair Fred Yoder before the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC) two weeks ago represented an early opportunity for farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to advance proven, pragmatic and practical solutions that produce win/win outcomes for those who work the land to stem climate change and improve the environment.

With the House committee off to a strong start in a bipartisan effort to evaluate meaningful steps to stem climate change, the Senate has shown within the past three weeks that it, too, is ready to push for solutions. On Oct. 23, Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Mike Braun (R-IN) launched the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, the first of its kind in the Senate. The caucus is bringing together an equal number of Republicans and Democrats to find common ground on solutions to address climate change while strengthening American competitiveness and creating widespread economic opportunities, with many of those expected to be available in the farm and forestry sectors.

Using Yoder’s House testimony as a benchmark, farmers, ranchers and foresters should take advantage of these growing opportunities to contribute policy recommendations, asserting the role their sectors can play in stemming the changes that are afflicting our climate.

One significant example of an opportunity for agriculture to contribute to the policy discussion is the call from the House Select Committee for recommendations that will help members “investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies and innovations to achieve substantial and permanent reductions in pollution and other activities that contribute to the climate crisis.”

However, given that the committee plans to submit its recommendations to Congress in the spring, members are seeking comment by next Friday, Nov. 22.

Among the specific topics of inquiry cited by the committee are policies Congress should adopt to:

  • Reduce carbon pollution and other greenhouse gas emissions and maximize carbon storage in agriculture.
  • Help farmers, ranchers, and natural resource managers adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The committee also wants to know how Congress should update the laws governing management of federal lands and forests to accelerate climate adaptation, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and maximize carbon storage.

The special committee is seeking input on possible policies that Congress should adopt to help communities – including those in rural America and the agricultural operations that help sustain them – become more resilient in response to climate change. Specifically, the committee is also looking for suggested adjustments that can be made to federal disaster programs “to the risks and costs of extreme weather and other effects of climate change that can no longer be avoided.”

Meanwhile, the Senate caucus held its first meeting just last week, but its leaders have vowed to include the agriculture sector’s views in its deliberations. Co-founding Sen. Coons said his panel will hear from farmers, along with business leaders and a range of experts, “about their priorities and ideas for how we can best address climate change and strengthen American competitiveness.”

Braun, the panel’s other co-founder, describes himself as a “life-long conservationist” and acknowledged that while discussions of climate change have ” been paralyzed by partisan gamesmanship,” the caucus can offer “real conversations about protecting our environment.”

SfL urges all agriculture and forestry stakeholders to reach out to their lawmakers in Washington and call upon them to deliver the tools they need to address and even remediate the changes in climate that are threatening America’s capability to produce low-cost, safe and abundant food, feed and fiber.

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