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Serving: United States

Agriculture climate focus intensifies with collaboration

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New members added to Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance and House Ag Committee schedules hearing.

A growing focus on climate change continues to include agriculture as part of the solution, and sitting at the table is the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA) who also is expanding its membership. As Congress and the White House look to tackle the impact of climate change and the role government plays, the initial 40 plus recommendations offered last fall by FACA will take on increasing importance in guiding the discussion for agriculture’s role.

Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee plans to host its first hearing on climate change on Thursday at 12:30 ET. (Note this is an updated time, changed from originally scheduled on Tuesday.) The livestream of the hearing can be viewed here. It’s likely the hearing will feature questioning on USDA’s ability to create a carbon bank and tapping into the Commodity Credit Corporation to make payments to farmers. The CCC currently pays out farm bill programs and also the pot of money tapped into for recent ad hoc payments including Market Facilitation Program payments and Coronavirus Food Assistance Program payments.

Congress and the Biden administration have expressed high levels of interest in the previously released FACA recommendations and requested additional guidance on how to achieve the goals laid out in the November report. In response, the alliance’s policy working groups are producing more detailed and specific proposals focusing on the carbon bank concept, tax credits and other incentives, as well as climate research.

“We are encouraged that leaders in both the House and Senate are requesting more detailed guidance to achieve FACA’s climate goals and recommendations. It’s important that any new climate policies respect the people who will be impacted the most – farmers and ranchers. FACA’s 40-plus proposals demonstrate farmers and ranchers must be treated as partners as we work together to build on the impressive advances already achieved toward climate-smart farming,” says American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

The policy working groups continue to uphold FACA’s three principles: agricultural and forestry climate policies must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities; promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities; and be science-based.

Related: Climate policy is coming

FACA’s original 40+ recommendations cover six areas of focus: soil health, livestock and dairy, forests and wood products, energy, research, and food loss and waste. They are outlined in a 50-page report and summarized in a one-page hand-out.

Robert Bonnie, deputy chief of staff for policy and senior advisor, has taken on a crucial role at the USDA in directing discussion on the ag sector’s role in climate change. While speaking at an event sponsored by AGree, a bipartisan initiative focused on advancing common-sense policies that promote conservation on working lands and support farmers’ livelihoods, Bonnie notes he hopes to accomplish improved conversations in building a toolbox for farmers to use in mitigating climate.

Bonnie recalls during the last major attempt at addressing climate in Congress, it was really hard to get everyone working together. He hopes USDA can have a conversation where it helps facilitate to build together a toolbox where the ag sector sees the need and it’s easy and not burdensome and as collaborative as possible.

Bonnie anticipates economic opportunities for farmers for actions they take for their contribution to resolving climate change. He says as producers look to make investments in actions such as cover crops, conservation tillage, dairy methane digesters or new forest practices, USDA recognizes each come with a price tag. USDA hopes to “de-risk those investments for producers.” He says he’ll be looking at ways to reduce transition costs to participate, provide an accountable way to measure the impacts and in the end create tools and methods that make it easier for producers to succeed.

Current programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentive Program could be building blocks, but he was also excited about the potential of a carbon bank and new authorities to create new finance mechanisms to assist with de-risking producers’ investments.

FACA's eight founding members — AFBF (co-chair), Environmental Defense Fund (co-chair), FMI – The Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (co-chair), National Farmers Union (co-chair) and The Nature Conservancy — welcomed 14 new groups to the steering committee. 

New steering committee members are: the American Seed Trade Association, American Sugar Alliance, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, Biotechnology Innovation Organization, Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau, Ducks Unlimited, Farm Credit Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, National Milk Producers Federation, Produce Marketing Association and USA Rice Federation. The general membership is also growing.

Duval notes, “The growth of alliance members from a wide range of industries shows we are on the right path toward protecting the environment while ensuring farmers and ranchers can continue growing healthy, affordable food for America’s families.”

A full list of FACA’s 42 members can be found at http://www.AgClimateAlliance.com.

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