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Reward farmers for capturing carbon

TAGS: Management
BenGoode / iStock / Getty Images Plus climate-change-contrasting-landscape-GettyImages-179057833.jpg
If farmers are going to be asked to address climate change, they must be compensated for it.

President Joe Biden has often parroted the well-worn bromide that climate change is an “existential threat to humanity” that must be addressed immediately. He has said that dealing with the “climate crisis” is a priority of his administration.

“In my view, we’ve already waited too long to deal with this climate crisis, and we can’t wait any longer. We see it with our own eyes, we feel it, we know it in our bones, and it’s time to act,” Biden said as he signed an executive order on Jan. 21 to take executive action on climate change.

Whether climate change is an “existential threat” to humanity or a “crisis” is open for debate. What is clear is tackling climate change will lead the agenda for the Biden administration. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said “we don’t have a day to waste” on climate mitigation. It will be a priority of USDA under his leadership.

Talk is that USDA sees a carbon bank as the mechanism to address climate mitigation on the farm with climate change expected to be the big theme for the 2023 farm bill. Talk is that funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation could also be used to encourage carbon sequestration on the farm.

One thing is clear, if farmers are going to be asked to address climate change, they must be compensated for it. Also, management decisions on the farm must be solely made by the farmer. Bureaucrats from EPA and Biden’s climate czar, John Kerry, should have no say on farm management decisions.

It’s also critical to let Biden, Kerry and others know that farmers already are taking action to address climate change on their farms. Farmers are already using no-till and other conservation-tillage practices as well as cover crops. Farmers always have been and always will be the best environmental stewards.

In testimony before the House Agriculture Committee Feb. 25, American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall, stressed the need of a voluntary, market-based system of incentives for planting crops or adopting farming practices that keep carbon in the soil.   

In a March 17 webinar on big data and carbon sequestration, P.J. Haynie, a Reedville, Va., farmer and chairman of the National Black Growers Council, made it clear that farmers be rewarded for their efforts in climate mitigation.  

“We want to make sure the farmers, the ones doing the hard work, the ones that are out here beating the bushes, the ones that are doing the practices for no-till, for more environmentally friendly, more stewardship practices, get compensated for that effort,” Haynie said.

“Dangling the carrot is what makes the horse run. When we can incentivize farmers to do something, and they are rewarded for their work, you can get a lot more people on the wagon a lot easier that way,’ Haynie said.

Importantly, farmers must also be the drivers on any new policy that will address carbon capture on the farm. Farmers know the land better than anybody because they are the stewards of the land. Addressing the supposed “climate crisis” must never take precedent over the farmer’s chief aim of providing food, fuel, and fiber for a needy world.

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