By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy
The Georgetown Climate Center, as the facilitator of the Transportation and Climate Initiative on behalf of participating state agencies, has secured a formal commitment among the District of Columbia and nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to significantly decrease greenhouse gas emissions in their transportation sectors and invest in a low-carbon and more resilient transportation infrastructure. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gases, accounting for 27 percent of the United States’ total emissions. The accumulation of these gases is the primary cause of rising global temperatures, as it prevents heat from escaping Earth’s atmosphere.
Given its significant implications for American agriculture, climate change is one of National Farmers Union’s (NFU) four major policy priorities. NFU members are concerned about how climate change will impact their businesses, and the organization appreciates the participating states’ commitment to addressing climate change.
Reductions in greenhouse gases may reduce the severity of climate change’s consequences for farmers across the U.S. and worldwide. Farmers in the thirteen states involved in the agreement will benefit not only from its resulting climate mitigation, but also from from greater deployment of land use planning improvements and transit-oriented development. These and other aspects of smart growth help preserve farmland and increase the likelihood that beginning farmers will be able to carry the mantle and continue producing food near dense urban markets.
In addition to the value of local and regional food systems in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, smart growth’s stabilizing impact on farmland is an important climate outcome unto itself. As a May 2017 American Farmland Trust report found, in New York state, an acre of farmland produces 66 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a developed acre. This precise figure will vary among the different states in the agreement, but the general idea that preserving farmland is a means of mitigating climate change will hold true throughout the region.
Interested farmers can learn more about the agreement, endorsed by Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., here. There will be opportunities in the future to participate in the implementation of this agreement, and the farmer perspective will be critical to its success.
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