Agricultural groups and organizations are working closely to let elected officials know what they’d like to see in the 2023 Farm Bill. But what would the non-agriculture community prefer to see? That was the topic of a panel discussion during NAFB’s Washington Watch. Ben Thomas is the senior policy director for agriculture with the Environmental Defense Fund. He talks about what his group wants to see in the next farm bill.
“One thing we’re focused on is ambition around methane. This is an issue, I think, that hasn’t been focused on in previous bills. Certainly, right now, there’s not the same level of research allocated to livestock methane, and there are also no incentives for methane emissions, right now. We know technology can get us beyond what we’re getting now. That is, we have both products that can be used, we have systems that can be implemented, and we also have strategies that can be used that will reduce livestock methane or redirect them. But, what’s missing is the incentives. The Farm Bill is all about incentives that produce results. And I think if we took the right approach here, we could work with producers to get greater uptake and see a reduction in methane emissions that are a big part of the climate impacts we’re seeing today.”
Laura Bryant, the deputy director of water and agriculture with the Natural Resources Defense Council, wants to see climate-friendly agriculture in the bill.
“Our members prioritize climate change, biodiversity, and water quality, so our priorities for the farm bill are going to be a bit broad. We want to see a holistic farm bill that’s supporting climate-friendly agriculture. We want to see a farm bill that’s supporting diverse and resilient food systems, for example, reducing food waste, and we want to see a bill that supports equitable access to food and resources on the farm across the farm belt. My priority is a little bit more on climate-friendly agriculture, and my top priority for the Farm Bill. Is seeing a $5 per acre discount for soil health practices, cover crops being probably one of the easiest ones of those.”
Kirin Kennedy, director of people and nature policy for the Sierra Club, talks about their priorities for people in rural areas.
“On our rural and living economy side, we’re looking at rural energy production, rural co-ops, things like that, to help folks who are in the agricultural industry be able to sustainably, but also economically, adjust both climate and livelihood, at the same time.”
Scott Faber is the senior vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, and he says controlling greenhouse gas emissions is one of their biggest priorities.
“Unless we reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming, unless we reduce, in particular, nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer and methane emissions from animals and their waste, we cannot avoid a climate catastrophe. Every sector of the economy, for a variety of reasons, but primarily because of policies set by the state governments or the federal government, are reducing their emissions but one: our farmers. Right now, agriculture accounts for about, or at least, 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But as every sector reduces their emissions and agriculture increases emissions, agriculture share of U.S. emissions will grow perhaps to 20 percent by the end of this decade, or 30 percent by the end of the next decade.”
Again, all of these comments came during a panel discussion earlier this month during the NAFB’s 2022 Washington Watch.