A group of Washington lawmakers began driving toward a Green New Deal a couple years ago. Today, a Democratic-led Congress moves it higher on everyone’s radar. Original proposals that were floated by some ranged from working on transportation methods to reduce air travel to seriously limiting livestock production.
When these proposals circulated and a Green New Deal resolution surfaced, even though it didn’t endorse limiting air travel or livestock production specifically, it served as a wake-up call for leaders of many groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Andrew Wamsley with AFBF in Washington, D.C., knew the people behind the Green New Deal were serious, and it would be a mistake to ignore it. Instead, he and others saw it as a call to action. As a result, as he told Indiana Farm Bureau members during the state convention in December, several national groups formed the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance.
Late in 2020, this group issued a report with 30 recommendations for how to address climate change, resiliency and sustainability going forward in a positive way for both agriculture and the environment. The goal, Wamsley says, is that these recommendations may serve as talking points and a beginning platform to help find workable solutions to real problems that will benefit everyone.
Call to action
The Green New Deal has little chance of surviving the legislative process as proposed, but it demonstrates that certain parts of society are very serious about the need for concrete action on climate change. Some 18 months ago, a Washington insider told Indiana farmers at a large meeting that one of the first things the new Congress seated in 2021 would likely act upon is climate change.
If that’s the case, agriculture wants to be at the table. “What the Green New Deal two years ago did was act as a wake-up call for us,” Wamsley says. “It got our attention, and it got the attention of many well-meaning environmental groups.”
As a result, groups that haven’t traditionally worked together began talking. That was the impetus for the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, and the 30 recommendations that were recently released. Thanks to all the groups that persisted to hammer out those positive recommendations.
The eight groups listed as partners in the alliance today include AFBF, Environmental Defense Fund, Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union and The Nature Conservancy. Those aren’t always groups that have broken bread and associated closely with one another in the past.
While each one may have its own agenda, each also has a stake in finding workable, voluntary solutions to reducing the carbon footprint and still feeding a growing global population. If an unintended consequence of the Green New Deal was acting as a call to action for these groups to work together collectively, then a terrible idea on its face spawned something very positive and useful.
“Agriculture has a story to tell, and this is an opportunity to tell it,” Wamsley says. “For example, the Green New Deal blames agriculture for about 25% of GHG emissions. Science shows it’s no higher than 10%.”
By telling the story and working together, Wamsley and others hope agriculture can play a positive role when the new Congress addresses climate change.