Ten candidates attended the forum; each got 30 to 40 minutes to talk about their plans. "When it came to food and agriculture, CNN's hosts and guest questioners were aggressively engaged in asking about policies surrounding cattle emissions, even though U.S. livestock accounts for just 3 percent of the nation's greenhouse-gas emissions," Clayton reports. "There was a lot of discussion on dietary guidelines and linking U.S. agricultural interests to Amazon deforestation and fires."
Here's some of what the candidates had to say about agriculture and rural-related topics, according to Clayton and another recap by Jordan McDonald of CNBC:
- Sen. Kamala Harris of California said she would consider the environmental impacts of food production in issuing dietary guidelines.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said farmers could be "part of the solution" on climate change, through incentives to to use less water and put less CO2 into the atmosphere. noted that she was the only candidate present who is on the Senate Agriculture Committee. (Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who did not attend the town hall, is also on the committee.)
- Mayor Pete Buttegieg of South Bend, Indiana, said climate change causes a lot of the uncertainty farmers currently face, but "rural Americans can be such a huge part of the solution." He admired the quest for a net-zero emissions cattle farm and said we must invest more in Agriculture Department research to make it affordable. He also wants to invest more in the Conservation Stewardship Program to preserve topsoil.
- Former Vice President Joe Biden wasn't asked about agriculture, but said he believes renewable energy jobs will bring economic benefits.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont said the nation must transition from "factory farming," which he said endangers the environment and contributes to climate change, and encourage more family farms to supply people with local food.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts didn't talk about agriculture but said renewable energy could bring more than a million manufacturing jobs to the U.S.
- Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas suggested a new Farm Bill that would pay farmers for environmentally friendly practices like planting cover crops, keeping more land under conservation, and using regenerative agriculture in ranching. He panned U.S. investment in Brazilian agriculture, which he said hurts U.S. farmers.
- Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey proposed a climate stewardship plan that would invest billions in agriculture. He noted that Iowa has created new sources of revenue with wind energy and said cover crops could help reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Booker, who is a vegan, also suggested reducing subsidies to the meat and dairy industries.
- Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said he wants to strengthen the National Flood Insurance Program and update America's flood maps. He also proposes providing incentives to farmers who adopt environmentally friendly practices.
- Andrew Yang, a billionaire businessman, proposed an aggressive climate strategy, including switching to greener farming techniques.