Rural Leaders Must ‘Come Out of Their Foxholes’ on Climate, Farm Writer Urges
It’s time for the “sharp lawmakers and staff” on the U.S. House and Senate agriculture committees to bring their expertise on farm and rural policy to a discussion on climate change, DTN Agriculture Policy Editor Chris Clayton writes in a recent opinion piece for Progressive Farmer.
Staff and politicians on both committees “know the challenges facing farmers, ranchers, and rural America. They look for ways to boost incomes and investment in agriculture and rural areas, and they work to stem the challenges of bureaucracy away from their constituencies,” Clayton writes.
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But the two committees have now gone a decade without holding hearings on climate change—and the last time they did, it was to pick apart the cap-and-trade legislation that was then before Congress, “without asking many questions about how agriculture or rural America could benefit further from policies surrounding renewable energy and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.”
The gap in policy-making has opened a void that “gets filled by people who don’t understand the impact of volatile weather patterns on the U.S. food supply and can’t make the connect between a growing world population and need for constantly rising food production,” Clayton states. “Without the agriculture committees, there’s also largely little understanding about the strength of renewable energy production in rural America.”
One of his immediate concerns is that proponents of the Green New Deal could repeat at least one of the mistakes legislators made with the previous cap-and-trade bill, when he says then-Rep. Ed Markey and Sen. Henry Waxman failed to factor farm concerns or advocates into their plans.
“Proponents of the bill back then did a terrible job of including rural America in their efforts,” he states. “A year later, rural Democrats suffered at the polls, partially because of confusion and disinformation over the climate debate.”
That should matter to anyone concerned about effective, integrated climate solutions, because “America will not have an effective solution for reducing greenhouse gases unless rural America is on board. There isn’t a viable strategy for renewable energy that doesn’t require rural America to build it.”
But Clayton suggests GND organizers are showing a lack of rural connection, just when “it’s taken roughly a decade in rural America to recover from the climate conversation around cap-and-trade”. That error has given Republican senators a chance to wrongly paint the plan as “a power grab that would take away our meat, our means of travel, and our way of life,” underscoring the need for farm leaders in Congress to “come out of their foxholes. The aggies need to hold serious, credible hearings for their members, and Congress as a whole.”
Clayton lists initiatives on biofuels, farm methane capture, wind energy, and soil health, as well as the risks that climate change poses for agriculture—all as compelling reasons for a wider Congressional conversation about climate solutions. “Getting to the root of renewable energy opportunities and long-term climate risks is, well, complicated,” he writes. “Still, this land of amber waves of grain is filled with competent scientists and experts who would love to explain the risks and potential benefits to Congress, including members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.”