The much-anticipated Climate Crisis Action Plan, drafted by the majority staff of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis (HSCCC), was released Tuesday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and panel Chair Kathy Castor (D-FL), drawing a generally favorable response from farm and environmental groups.
In a statement released yesterday, Solutions from the Land (SfL) applauded the report’s authors for recognizing the critical role America’s farmers, ranchers and foresters can play in providing valuable climate and ecosystem services and committed to work with the Congress to build bipartisan support for practical and pragmatic climate smart agriculture enabling policies.
Tasked by Pelosi last year at the outset of this 116th session of Congress to make science-based policy recommendations to the standing committees of jurisdiction on how to solve the climate crisis, the select committee staff has compiled a document that offers many solid building blocks for enabling agriculture’s role in addressing climate change.
Among the noteworthy recommendations are proposals to boost conservation technical and financial assistance funding; provide crop insurance discounts to producers who adopt climate smart agriculture practices such as no-till and cover crops; implement a low carbon fuel standard to enable the full potential of biofuels to be realized; increase funding for agricultural research and USDA’s Climate Hubs; and incentivize farmers and ranchers to incorporate energy efficiency and generate renewable energy.
Still, a number of provisions will require additional review, possibly with an eye toward what might be more reasonable and effective means by which the sector can take on the ever-growing crisis.
One area requiring a closer look when other committees take up the report is its proposal for Congress to extend federal protection to 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030, a well-meaning, but blunt objective that invites overkill. It’s important to note that preserving land does not necessarily mean conserving it. Locking up land does not guarantee it will remain a tool in the climate-change toolbox. Policy makers would be wise to place more emphasis on programs designed to keep “working lands working” so the full suite of goods and ecosystem services that well managed well managed farms, ranches and forests can produce are realized.
While SfL welcomes the report’s call for investments in water storage and infrastructure, it falls short in its consideration of how water should be allocated, especially given the increasing demand placed on water resources by expanding metropolitan areas at the expense of rural and agricultural needs.
While consideration is given by the report for the water needs of fish and wildlife, it appears to come at the expense of the needs of U.S. farmers, who, without adequate access to water, could not maintain their status as the providers of food, feed, fiber, clean energy and a host of ecosystems services.
Additionally, climate smart agriculture systems and practices play a strong, important role in the storage and filtration of ground water. With a focus on the negative environmental impacts of dams, the report undercuts the multiple benefits and essential nature of dams to Western irrigated agriculture and rural communities.
In the coming weeks the North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), chaired by veteran Ohio corn, soybean and wheat producer Fred Yoder, will be taking up the report with the goal of helping build bipartisan support for policies and programs that will benefit agriculture and the nation.
SfL is grateful to HSCCC Chair Castor for the opportunity to provide policy recommendations as the report was being written and we look forward to continuing to contribute additional input as various portions of the document make their way through the appropriate House committees.