President Joe Biden recently issued the “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” It directs Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to collect input from stakeholders on how best to use USDA programs to promote climate-smart agricultural practices. The public comment period is open through April 29, 2021.
We demonstrate power through our collective voice, as farmers, land stewards, rural and urban residents working together to build a more just and sustainable food system. Please sign on to the Land Stewardship Project’s comment below:
- In order to address the scale of the climate crisis, USDA must improve and greatly expand existing conservation programs to increase access to farmers and ranchers. It should prioritize practices that provide the most climate benefit, like incorporating cover crops, perennial crops, and managed grazing of perennial pasture. Farmers will be essential to responding to climate change, particularly through a greater emphasis on building soil health. The stacking benefits of soil health practices create climate resilience by increasing organic matter, improving soil fertility, reducing erosion, and improving water quality and infiltration.
- Factory farms are a cause of climate change, and they should not be considered part of the solution. The way that animals are raised plays a major role in their impact on climate. Factory farms require huge quantities of industrial feed, water, chemical inputs, and energy, and they manage manure in a way that increases greenhouse gas emissions. We need a dramatic transition in how we raise animals for food that is centered on getting getting more small to mid-scale farmers using sustainable systems such as managed rotational grazing, which can build healthy soils and sequester carbon.
- USDA should spend public money on public programs that have a track record of success, not on propping up the fossil fuel industry. Private carbon markets benefit big agribusiness and let polluters off the hook for their emissions. Agriculture offset markets already don’t work for most farmers — they don’t pay farmers fairly and they are tightly controlled by a handful of big companies that dominate the market. Smaller scale farmers, including Black and Indigenous farmers who have faced systemic discrimination at the hands of USDA, are not well served by this model. Neither is the climate. Farmers and ranchers should be invested in as stewards of the land, not as a carbon sink for big business. The fossil fuel industry needs to reduce its own emissions, and smaller scale farmers and farmers of color must be prioritized in USDA climate policy.
- Climate policy for agriculture must ensure a fair price for farmers and a fair wage for workers. USDA needs to manage over-production, invest in climate-friendly systems of production that protect water and air quality in rural communities, and create new rural-based and owned economic opportunities that keep wealth local and out of the hands of big corporations. It must support the next generation of farmers and food system workers and their right to make a fair living.
- Local control and ownership must be an essential part of climate policy for agriculture, so that the rural landscape is protected and historic patterns of exploitation and wealth extraction are not repeated. Small to mid-scale farmers and ranchers must be at the center of climate policy for agriculture. A farming system that sustains our family farms and gets more emerging farmers on the land is best suited to revitalize rural communities, produce a healthy and sustainable food supply, and respond to climate change.