Thursday, November 19, 2020

Unlikely alliance of Farm Bureau, environmental groups, Farmers Union aims to reduce agriculture's carbon footprint

"The American Farm Bureau Federation, the country's largest and most powerful agricultural lobbying group, has long pushed against climate legislation and worked closely with the fossil-fuel industry to defeat it," Georgina Gustin reports for Inside Climate News. "But on Tuesday, the Farm Bureau announced it had joined an unlikely alliance of food, forest, farming and environment groups that intends to work with Congress and the incoming Biden administration to reduce the food system's role in climate change and reward farmers when they lower their greenhouse-gas emissions."

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance was founded in February by four groups than now co-chair it: Farm Bureau, the National Council of Farm Cooperatives, the National Farmers Union (in some ways a liberal Farm Bureau) and the Environmental Defense Fund. The group now includes the Food Industry Association, the National Alliance of Forest Owners, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the Nature Conservancy. The Russell Group, a Washington lobbying firm, is coordinating. The groups' leaders of the groups acknowledge they won't always agree, but told Gustin that they believe they can find common ground.

In the Tuesday announcement, the group unveiled 40 policy proposals on its wish list that could be carried out through legislation, executive order, agency-level policy, and/or voluntary cooperation from farmers and agribusinesses. "The group's recommendations range across six broad categories, including soil health, food waste and agriculture research, Gustin reports. "They include a proposal to give tax credits to farmers who can prove that they've stashed carbon in their soils and a USDA-led 'carbon bank' that would set a minimum amount that farmers would be paid for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions."

All that doesn't address larger issues such as "overuse of synthetic fertilizers and the continued expansion of large-scale animal feeding operations and their excess manure," Ben Lilliston, director of rural strategies and climate change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, told Gustin. "Voluntary, incentive-based approaches are important, but as long as this industrial system of production is in place, it will be difficult to get deeper traction at the speed with which is needed to meet the climate crisis." Click here for the group's full list of policy proposals.

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