By Jan Ahlen, Government Relations Representative

National Farmers Union has long believed in the science affirming climate change, and the need to transition to a low carbon economy driven by renewable energy and clean technology. In President Obama’s second Inaugural Address, climate change and renewable energy featured prominently. “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms.”

NFU could not agree more. Climate change is real, and mitigating and adapting to climate change will be a tremendous challenge. Nowhere else is this threat more acute than in agriculture. With rising temperatures, increased storm intensity and widespread droughts, crop systems and livestock operations face a growing challenge. Despite the hurdles, the threat of climate change is also an opportunity for agriculture. Renewable energy is key to moving to a low carbon economy, and has the potential to be an economic driver for rural America. Development of wind, solar, biofuels and other sources of renewable power can transform the rural economy and lead our nation to a more sustainable future.

President Obama’s words are a clear indication of where the administration wants our country to go in the next four years. While significant action on climate change will remain an uphill battle in a polarized Congress, there are common-sense policies that can be continued or enacted that will help mitigate climate change, create new, well-paying jobs in rural America and help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is the main driver of the commercialization of next generation biofuels. This year will likely see sustained attacks on the RFS by the oil and gas industry, but Congress must continue to support our major effort to wean our nation off of oil.

Passage of a five-year farm bill is also vital to increasing renewable energy production. Some key renewable energy programs within the farm bill include the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), Biorefinery Assistance Program (BAP) and Biobased Markets Program (Biopreferred). These programs have helped develop 6,600 renewable energy or energy efficiency projects, employed 15,000 people and backed advanced biorefineries in 9 states.

After two years of relative inaction on climate change, President Obama made clear that this is once again a priority. We commend the president for taking charge and agree fully that we owe action to future generations.

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