Green New Deal starts climate conversation
February 14, 2019
Last week, Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., released a long-anticipated framework for their Green New Deal. The resolution has kickstarted broad discussions on how the U.S. will both mitigate and adapt to climate change, which, if left unchecked, will have irrevocable consequences for global economic and social stability.
The proposal, though radical in spirit, is fairly vague and abstract in practice. Its long-term goals are primarily to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 — which, considering the United States' relatively lethargic response to climate change, is a lofty ambition — and to create new, high-wage jobs. To achieve this, it suggests sweeping changes to nearly every sector, including manufacturing, energy production, waste management, transportation, infrastructure, and — of course — agriculture.
So what does this deal recommend to help farmers and ranchers "eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions … as much as technologically feasible?" It proposes "working collaboratively with farmers" to support family farming, invest in "sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health," and build "a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food."
The plan does not detail concrete policies to make such changes. Instead, the Green New Deal is meant to act as a guide for future legislation. Though the framework is not expected to be adopted, it has renewed the Congressional conversation around climate change and creates opportunity for future action that could benefit family farmers and ranchers. The wide ranging reactions to the Green New Deal prove that farmers and ranchers must have a seat at the table as Congress considers climate solutions. Farmers are already feeling the effects of climate change, and more frequent and severe weather events pose a direct threat to their livelihoods and global food security. In a press release, NFU Vice President of Public Policy and Communications Rob Larew reiterated the need for farmers' voices to be heard in the climate debate, stating, "NFU stands ready to work with Congress to ensure that federal legislation recognizes what's at stake for farm families and rural communities and the potential we have to offer national and global efforts to sequester carbon and curb the worsening effects of climate change."
Farmers are not only especially vulnerable to the challenges presented by a changing climate, but as stewards of the land, they are also uniquely positioned to be part of the solution. As such, NFU is supportive of incentives for farmers to implement conservation practices for soil carbon sequestration and to install on-farm renewable energy systems. NFU also continues to be strong advocate for the expanded use of biofuels to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. ❖