Heitkamp, Chambliss to chair BPC carbon solutions task force
The Bipartisan Policy Center has announced a new Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force to be chaired by former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who is considered a candidate to be agriculture secretary in the Biden administration, and former Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
The purpose of the task force is “to identify effective climate change mitigation opportunities for agriculture and forestry lands,” BPC said.
“Working with these rural communities, the task force will develop federal policy and program recommendations that encourage sustainable land management practices that improve their profitability, increase carbon storage, and reduced emissions,” BPC added.
“Agriculture accounts for about 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, but innovations in cropland and livestock management could dramatically reduce the impact. Forests absorb the equivalent of about 15% of America’s annual carbon dioxide emissions, yet the loss of forests to development and emissions from wildfire threaten to negate this natural carbon sink,” BPC explained.
“To encourage private sector participation, the Department of Agriculture will need better tools to help producers and landowners measure the positive climate impacts of their stewardship activities and craft sustainability plans for their operations, including working with minority and tribal producers who historically have not received the attention they deserve from USDA.”
“Rural Americans are seeing the effects of climate change in prolonged droughts, shifting growing seasons, and wildfires,” said Heitkamp.
“We need to develop a policy agenda that not only strengthens our working lands against these changes but understands the integral part they have to play in addressing climate change.”
“Only by partnering with farmers, ranchers and forest owners can we encourage them to undertake the types of voluntary stewardship practices needed to address climate change,” said Chambliss.
“Incentivizing innovative cropland and livestock management or finding new uses for wood products, can lead to reduced emissions while ensuring these businesses are productive and profitable for generations.”
The full task force membership is yet to be announced.
Heitkamp told Politico in an interview published today that she believes in carbon sinks as a way to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, and in “rewarding farmers — not penalizing farmers — but rewarding farmers for using practices that lower their carbon footprint.”
She also said that with so many obese people dying from COVID-19, “I think that we all have to step back and we have to realize that one of the great vulnerabilities in COVID has been the growing rates of obesity in our population and that this is a great public health challenge.”
Asked whether she would like to be agriculture secretary, Heitkamp said, “I’m willing to help out any way I can, that makes sense for the Biden administration and that makes sense for me.”
She also praised Biden’s rural agenda, particularly his emphasis on the delivery of health care to rural areas.
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