Family farmers and ranchers must be at the table with lawmakers as they look to enact policies that seek to address climate change. With growing attention on this issue from both Republicans and Democrats, agriculture need to come together as a sector to take the lead on developing policies and programs that will help farmers and ranchers make their land more resilient to extreme weather and sequester carbon; strengthen the nation’s supply of food, fiber, and renewable energy; and ensure the economic vitality of America’s family farms, ranches, and rural communities.

NFU supports a comprehensive federal approach that assists farmers and ranchers to implement soil health and emissions reductions practices on their operations and recognizes the carbon sink potential and public good of well-managed agricultural and forested lands. This approach must build on the Farm Bill’s voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs, spur on-farm production of energy and expand the use and availability of biofuels, and encourage markets that appropriately compensate farmers for the goods and environmental services they provide. Underlying these efforts must be a strong public investment in research to move farming systems forward. 

At the crux of federal climate solution must be a carbon credit system to serve as a funding mechanism to ensure that farmers are appropriately compensated for the carbon sequestration and downstream resilience that healthy land management can provide. True sustainability means leaving both the land and the farming operation better than it was. 

NFU is concerned about the effects of climate  change and believes further research and analysis is necessary to determine its actual and potential impacts. We acknowledge and accept the scientific evidence that clearly indicates that human activities are a contributing factor to climate change. We believe that human activity also has the potential to help mitigate climate change.

We support: 

  1. Farmers and ranchers being consulted as the United States moves forward to reduce its emission of greenhouse gases; 
  2. Soil health practices that aim to increase organic matter and humus development; 
  3. Carbon sequestration being an innovative way to enhance income for producers and protect our environment. Therefore, the trading of carbon credits with the inclusion of carbon sequestration as an agricultural conservation practice for fair and equitable carbon offset payments should be encouraged; 
  4. Carbon sequestration research and carbon payments not being biased toward a single practice, such as no-till, and instead integrating soil health principles into all agricultural practices, including grazing lands, energy feedstock production, organic cropping, wood lots, the Conservation Reserve Program and other proven conservation methods; 
  5. A carbon trading exchange as a way to compensate farmers and ranchers for sequestering carbon; 
  6. A national mandatory carbon emission tax or fee and dividend system to reduce non-farm greenhouse gas emissions that: 
  7. Grants USDA control, verification and administration of the agriculture offset program, rather than EPA; 
  8. Does not place an artificial cap on domestic offset allowance; 
  9. Bases carbon sequestration rates upon science; 
  10. Recognizes early actors; and 
  11. Allows producers to stack credits. 
  12. Agriculture being uncapped in any climate change legislation;
  13. The inclusion of provisions that are advantageous to agriculture while minimizing potential negative effects to agriculture and rural communities such as increased input costs, elevated electricity costs and decreased global competitiveness; 
  14. All nations participating to reduce carbon emissions, as climate change is a global responsibility; 
  15. Research and development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities, with the understanding that landowners will not share in the risks and liabilities associated with CCS; 
  16. Research and promotion of resilient farming practices, such as the NRCS Soil Health Initiative, that mitigate and adapt to the potential effects of climate change; 
  17. Efforts to preserve rainforest land and convert cleared rainforest land back into diversified agroforestry; 
  18. Increasing USDA research funding for public plant breeding programs to provide farmers with seeds that are regionally adapted to changing climates; and 
  19. The goals articulated through the Paris Climate Accords; and 
  20. Creating an incentive program for cost share on practices that help producers voluntarily reduce greenhouse gases through reduction in emissions or capture of greenhouse gas. 

We oppose: 

  1. Any plan that does not cover carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy; 
  2. Considering international indirect land use changes when determining U.S. carbon and energy policy; and 
  3. Exempting small domestic refiners (producing 150,000 barrels per day or less) from an emission cap.

 

Family Farming and Climate Change: 2020 NFU Special Order of Business
Read the full special order of business here.

In the past two years, members of the U.S. Congress have increasingly become interested in policies aimed at curbing emissions and tackling the causes and effects of climate change. This interest is coming from both sides. Many Democrats have long been pushing for policies to ease the effects of climate change, and the large class of freshmen House lawmakers elected in 2018 only bolstered those efforts.  Meanwhile, Republicans are starting to put forth their own ideas on how to curb the effects of climate change, looking at things like carbon capture technologies, tax credits, and efforts to plant more trees. 

Agriculture holds a key place in many of these climate change discussions. Land management practices can both capture carbon and help the nation adapt to the effects of increasingly severe extreme weather events. On farm energy production in the form of wind, solar, methane digestors, and biofuels feed stock will be crucial in the creation of a clean and domestically produced secure energy future for the United States. Done right, climate policy for agriculture can create economically sustainable family farms and ranches, and environmentally sustainable communities.  

Certainly, there is precedent for using farm policy to address climate issues in a deliberate, farmer-led way. The 2018 Farm Bill includes more than $24 million for 16 projects aimed at helping farmers build soil health and combat climate change.  

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis 

The committee is tasked with issuing a report making economy-wide recommendations for how to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. Read NFU’s comments to the committee here.  

Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on “Climate Change and the Agricultural Sector” 

On May 21, 2019, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a bipartisan hearing to receive testimony from farmers, ranchers, and other experts on issues related to climate change and agriculture and potential solutions. Read NFU’s testimony here.  

House Agriculture Committee hearing “Managing for Soil Health: Securing the Conservation and Economic Benefits of Healthy Soils” 

On June 25, 2019, the House Agriculture Committee Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee heard from farmers and researchers on the environmental and economic benefits of healthy soils. 

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce  

The committee has proposed legislation that aims to achieve a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2050. The draft legislation focuses on reducing emissions from power generation, efficient energy use, transportation, and manufacturing, and would create a national climate bank to fund new technologies and trial projects.  

Legislation endorsed by NFU 

NFU reviews and weighs in on a number of climate related bills. Among the bills that NFU has recently endorsed are: 

USDA Agriculture Innovation Agenda 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a new department-wide effort in February 2020 aimed at increasing U.S. agricultural production while cutting its environmental footprint in half by 2050. Read NFU’s statement on USDA’s initiative here

2020 Elections and Climate Change 

Joe Biden’s Plan for Rural America 

The former Vice President, who is now the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has included in his plan for rural America a push for net-zero emissions for agriculture, arguing that the effort will also create new sources of income for farmers.


Contact your lawmakers! 

Let your lawmaker know how climate change is affecting your farm, ranch, or rural community, and what resources farmers and ranchers will need lead in creating more environmentally and economically sustainable and resilient agricultural operations. You can find the contact information for your U.S. Senator here, and your U.S. Representative here.

A one-page overview of NFU’s climate policy and potential solutions is here 

Hello, 

My name is _______, and I am from ______. I am calling because I’m concerned about how increasingly frequent and severe weather events are threatening farmers’ livelihoods and global food security. This is a serious problem, but farmers are uniquely equipped to mitigate and adapt to climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil and producing renewable energy. Strong climate policy can help to make U.S. family farmers and ranchers more environmentally and economically sustainable. I would encourage (Senator or Representative) _____ to ensure that we have the resources and assistance we need to implement practices that achieve this goal. 

Farmers want to implement conservation practices that sequester carbon, but those practices are often expensive, labor intensive, or technically difficult. To help us overcome these barriers, we need legislators to increase funding for voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs that prioritize soil health

Farmers also want to contribute to a cleaner energy future thorough the production of wind and solar energy and the source materials for biofuels. Legislators should encourage these efforts by providing greater support for on-farm energy production.  

We also need an economy-wide carbon reduction mechanism that recognizes and financially supports agriculture’s critical role in sequestration and climate change adaptation and mitigation, in addition to other market-based solutions. 

The success of farmers’ efforts depends on high-quality and unbiased research that focuses on the development of outcome-based conservation practices and other land adaptation and mitigation tools. We need legislators to provide robust funding for this kind of research. 

I will pay close attention to whether or not (Senator or Representative) _____ supports policy measures that help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. Please keep me up to date on his/her efforts. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Dear (Senator or Representative) __________, 

My name is _______, and I am from ______. I am writing to you because I’m concerned about how increasingly frequent and severe weather events are threatening farmers’ livelihoods and global food security. This is a serious problem, but farmers are uniquely equipped to mitigate and adapt to climate change by sequestering carbon in the soil and producing renewable energy. Strong climate policy can help to make U.S. family farmers and ranchers more environmentally and economically sustainable. I would encourage (Senator or Representative) _____ to ensure that we have the resources and assistance we need to implement practices that achieve this goal. 

Farmers want to implement conservation practices that sequester carbon, but those practices are often expensive, labor intensive, or technically difficult. To help us overcome these barriers, we need legislators to increase funding for voluntary, incentive-based conservation programs that prioritize soil health

Farmers also want to contribute to a cleaner energy future thorough the production of wind and solar energy and the source materials for biofuels. Legislators should encourage these efforts by providing greater support for on-farm energy production

We also need an economy-wide carbon reduction mechanism that recognizes and financially supports agriculture’s critical role in sequestration and climate change adaptation and mitigation, in addition to other market-based solutions. 

The success of farmers’ efforts depends on high-quality and unbiased research that focuses on the development of outcome-based conservation practices and other land adaptation and mitigation tools. We need legislators to provide robust funding for this kind of research. 

I will pay close attention to whether or not you support policy measures such as these that help farmers mitigate and adapt to climate change. Please keep me up to date on your efforts. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, 

__________ (Your name)