House Dems speak at Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal news conference

The Hagstrom Report
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, speaks at a news conference sponsored by Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal.
Photo by Jerry Hagstrom/The Hagstrom Report

Five House Democrats who have signed on to support the controversial Green New Deal sponsored by Rep. Alexandra Octavio-Cortez, D-N.Y., Sept. 8 joined a Capitol Hill news conference organized by Regeneration International and the Sunrise Movement.

Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree of Maine, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts appeared at a news conference that seemed intended to counter the bad publicity the Green New Deal Resolution got among farmers and rural Americans when it was introduced and a draft referred to the elimination of “farting cows” that release methane.

Pingree, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee who arranged the news conference, noted, as she has in the past, while she endorsed the Green New Deal it is “only a framework.” Pingree said she does not expect House Agriculture to hold a formal hearing on the Green New Deal, but said the committee and its subcommittees are dealing with Green New Deal issues in a series of hearings.

People focus on “Meatless Monday” proposals, Pingree said, but it would be “a better approach” to focus on issues such as soil health, food waste and pressures to push farm land out of production.

People talk about not eating meat, Pingree noted, but she said the plant-based foods that are produced from soybeans should be subject to the “same analysis” as meat.

McGovern noted that he has 1,800 farmers in his district and said that in discussions of climate change “the people who should be at the table are the people who produce our food. What makes the Green New Deal important is vision.”

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., noted her heritage is Native American Pueblo and Norwegian, and she co-sponsored the Climate Stewardship Act, which also has been introduced in the Senate. There needs to be more of a focus on water issues, Haaland said.

While most of the House members at the news conference took a practical approach, the organizers spoke more broadly, noting the Green New Deal Resolution, introduced on Feb. 7, “calls for a 10-year national mobilization to enact massive policy reforms to address, among other issues, global warming, income inequality, corporate monopolies and lack of access to clean air, water and healthy food for millions of Americans.”

The coalition anchored by Regeneration International and the Sunrise Movement claims to represent 10,000 farmers. According to a policy document released Sept. 8, the group supports policy tools “similar to those under FDR’s New Deal — which are intended to keep surpluses low and prices high by paying farmers to cut back production of some crops, especially soil-degrading, fossil fuel-intensive crops, and/or buying and storing excess production for future sale when adverse weather or other conditions result in food/crop shortages.”

The document offered as “policy examples” parity pricing and floor prices and government-funded supply management programs similar to those Congress ended decades ago.

Craig Hickman, an African-American farmer from Maine, said he believes some of the opposition to the Green New Deal comes from “who” proposed it.

But Will Harris, a farmer from Bluffton, Ga., who co-chairs the coalition, said he is too old, white, male, rural and Southern to be associated with “AOC,” as Octavio-Cortez is known, but endorses the Green New Deal goals.