Letter Signed by over 2,100 U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Highlights the Impacts of the Climate Crisis & the Opportunities for Ag to Lead on Solutions
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a letter delivered to the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis this week, Congress is being urged by farmers from Minnesota and across the country to support and invest in agriculture and rural communities as a way to address the climate crisis. Farmer-members of the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project (LSP) were among the over 2,100 farmers and ranchers who signed onto the letter, which was submitted to the Select Committee by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). LSP is a member-group of NSAC.
The letter underscores the fundamental threat that the climate crisis poses to the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers, and the overall viability of agriculture. In recent years, unprecedented extreme weather events have devastated wide swaths of agricultural lands across the U.S.
“Climate change presents a fundamental threat to our ability to remain viable in the years to come,” stated the letter to the Select Committee. It added, “We must act now to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, change to a renewable energy system and advance a multitude of solutions, including the unique and important climate solutions offered by agriculture. We also need investment in conservation practices and farm programs that make our operations and rural communities more resilient to extreme weather events.”
As the U.S. Congress considers comprehensive climate legislation in the future, NSAC, along with LSP and other coalition members, urges legislators to include agricultural policy that places farmers and ranchers at the center and supports them directly in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Both a recent report by the Select Committee and the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA), introduced earlier this year by Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), showcase farmer-focused climate policy solutions that should be included in any future comprehensive climate bill.
Hannah Bernhardt, an LSP member who raises pasture-based livestock near Finlayson, Minn., said she and other farmers are proving that soil-friendly farming practices not only reduce harmful emissions, but build the kind of organic carbon that sequesters greenhouse gases. LSP is currently working with hundreds of farmers across the region to help them put in place soil building practices like cover cropping, no-till, diverse rotations, and managed rotational grazing. The time is right for public policy that recognizes and rewards the positive role farmers can play in the fight to mitigate the climate crisis, said Bernhardt.
“I really believe that the public supports rewarding and incentivizing farmers to do the right thing and take care of the planet,” she said. “I know my customers do. We just need Congress to act.”
LSP member Darrel Mosel, who raises crops and livestock in Minnesota’s Sibley County, said the time to debate whether or not climate change is “real” is over. He has seen the impacts of extreme weather caused by climate change on his own farm, as well as on his neighbors’ land.
“It is here, impacting us, and a real factor in how we operate our farms,” he said. “I observe the effects myself. We had a 12-inch rain in five hours here recently, and it caused significant damage and destruction. The good news is farmers and agriculture in general are in a position to respond and do all that we can to build resilience in the face of climate change. It is our responsibility to act, but we need support from our policymakers to put these climate-friendly practices in place.”
NSAC recently organized a webinar with members of the Select Committee and five farmers who signed the letter and shared their stories on how climate change has impacted their operations and lives. The farmers highlighted how Congress can increase support for farmers to implement climate stewardship practices and build resilience to climate stresses.
U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL), who chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, agreed that farmers and ranchers are being severely impacted by climate change, and can play a key role in putting in place solutions.
“The USDA and policymakers can be better partners with farmers to help enact lasting climate solutions to boost our economy, protect our families, and leave a sustainable country for future generations,” she said. “Farmers across the nation are already stepping up to the challenge. Now Congress must work with them to expand the use of clean energy and create a stronger, healthier, more resilient America.”
The farmer-rancher letter to the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis is at https://sustainableagriculture.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/farmer-climate-letter-4.pdf.
The Land Stewardship Project (LSP) is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1982 to foster an ethic of stewardship for farmland, to promote sustainable agriculture, and to develop healthy communities. LSP has offices in the Minnesota communities of Lewiston, Montevideo and Minneapolis.
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources and rural communities.