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Presidential Candidates Give Air Time to Climate Change and Agriculture

September 18, 2019


White House.
White House. Photo credit: Reana Kovalcik

Fourteen months may seem like a long ways away, unless you’re talking campaign politics. A slew of Democratic challengers to President Trump, as well as a handful of Republicans, have already been making their case to the public for months. What makes this cycle particularly interesting for food and agriculture advocates is the attention that long-ignored subjects – like rural broadband, the farm economy, and climate change and agriculture – are finally getting. Of the farm, food, and environmental topics so far touched on in the debate, climate change and agriculture has received the most attention from both candidates and the public.

Although the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) takes no position on candidates or electoral politics, we do strongly believe that farmers have a central role to play in addressing the challenges of a changing climate.

Producers across the country have suffered catastrophic damages to their crops, livestock, and homes in the last few years alone due to increased climate variability. Our nation’s producers are increasingly bearing the brunt of climate change and extreme weather, but they’re also leading the charge in adaptation and mitigation efforts. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers have a clear stake in discussions of climate change, and we urge all candidates to invite producers to the table as these debates continue.

While some of the Democratic contenders for the highest office have released more comprehensive climate change platforms than others, nearly all candidates are proposing some policy solutions focused on the role of agriculture in responding to climate change. Some candidates focus on existing programs, like the Conservation Stewardship Program, while others propose that new solutions are needed. Similarly, there’s been a slew of attention in Congress looking at these very same issues, including the Green New Deal and the recently introduced Climate Stewardship Act.

In this post, we summarize the climate change platforms of the candidates running for President across several areas: conservation, research, greenhouse gas emissions, renewable energy, crop insurance and subsidies, and local and regional food systems. This is not a comprehensive listing of every specific policy proposal, nor is it an endorsement of one platform over another. However, it is intended to shed some light on where each of the candidates stands on the issue of climate change as it relates specifically to agriculture and food systems.

This list is current as of the date of this posting, and candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Senator Michael Bennet (D)

Conservation

  • Assist farmers with transitioning to voluntary practices that sequester carbon.

Research

  • Invest in early stage agricultural research through the creation of a new research agency at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) called ARPA – TERRA which would develop new technologies, sequester carbon and build economic opportunities for farmers and rural communities.
  • Establish a federal research budget for climate related research.

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Grow and invest in the biofuels market.
  • Support financial incentives for farmers to invest in the production of zero-emission energy.

Local and Regional Foods

  • Provide incentives to create local and regional food systems (including food processing) that reduce the distance food travels, enable smaller producers to set their own prices, and encourage schools to purchase locally grown produce.

Other

  • Reduce food waste 75 percent by 2030.
  • Launch the 2030 Climate Challenge, calling on states to tackle the climate crisis in ways that meet the needs of state resources and population.

See additional policy platform details here.

Senator Joe Biden (D)

Conservation

  • Expand the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) in order to support the farm economy while still protecting the environment and sequestering carbon. Allow corporations and foundations to offset their emissions by contributing to CSP.

Research

  • Invest in research into cellulosic ethanol.

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Pursue a goal to make U.S. farmers the first in the world to achieve net-zero emissions.
  • Create new opportunities to support the deployment of methane digesters to capture potent climate emissions and generate electricity.

See additional policy platform details here.

Senator Cory Booker (D)

Conservation

  • Increase mandatory funding for voluntary agricultural conservation programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and CSP by 2024. Direct new funding to practices that address climate mitigation and resilience.
  • Increase the number of acres enrolled into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 40 million acres by 2030 to allow farmers, ranchers, and other private landowners to engage in “climate-smart” conservation practices.
  • Utilize EQIP to increase enrollment terms for contracts focused on climate mitigation practices like soil health, nutrient management, and grazing management practices, as well as increased EQIP Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to $200 million per year.

Research

  • Increase funding for agriculture research that reduces emissions, builds soil health, and sequesters carbon.

Local and Regional Foods

  • Assist farmers through the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network with additional funding to help coordinate regional food enterprises, value-chain coordination and educational and crisis outreach services.

See additional policy platform details here.

Governor Steve Bullock (D)

Conservation

  • Leverage carbon-reducing cover crops to improve soil health.

Research

  • Direct USDA to revitalize federal research so that farmers and ranchers can cut costs, boost productivity, and protect and strengthen our shared natural resources.

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Require each federal agency to have a plan to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Work with farmers and ranchers to develop biofuels, and further incentivize greenhouse gas reductions. 

See additional policy platform details here

Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D)

Conservation

  • Expand payments for EQIP and CSP so that farmers can maximize conservation activities (e.g., to build soil health). Reduce barriers that limit access to these programs.

Research

  • Invest $50 billion over 10 years in research focusing on soil health, food safety, natural resources, and plant and animal health. Focus increased research investments on reducing carbon emissions and technologies for monitoring and measuring soil carbon as part of carbon sequestration efforts.

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Support policies, like the Renewable Fuel Standards, and incentives that reward innovations and best practices that promote biofuels and rural communities.

Other

  • Establish Resilience Hubs that provide regional climate data so that communities can manage risks with financial assistance from federal Resilient America Grants.

See additional policy platform details here.

Julian Castro (D)

Conservation

  • Establish a $50 billion National Infrastructure Revolving Fund to restore wetlands and forests and improve soil quality, among other priorities.
  • Expand CRP and reform EQIP to support voluntary conversion of agricultural lands and improvements to farms to withstand the changing climate.

Other

  • Support environmental justice legislation that addresses the disproportionate impacts of climate change on communities of color.

See additional policy platform details here.

Mayor Bill De Blasio (D)

  • No climate or agriculture related campaign proposals available.

Representative John Delaney (D)

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Create “Challenge Grants” to spur innovations to help reduce emissions from agriculture.

See additional policy platform details here.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D)

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • End subsidies to big fossil fuel and agribusiness corporations, ban offshore drilling, harness innovation to create jobs in renewable energy, provide better opportunities for farmers, and ensure every American has clean air and water.

See additional policy platform details here.

Senator Kamala Harris (D)

Conservation

  • Help farmers to implement science-based agricultural conservation practices by 2040.
  • Build on current USDA programs to incentivize and assist farmers with implementing climate-smart practices.

Other

  • Provide farmers with the technical assistance and resources they need to reduce emissions and capture carbon, while continuing to produce enough for a growing global population.

See additional policy platform details here.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (D)

Conservation

  • Expand farm bill conservation programs.

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Provide new economic and environmental opportunities in rural America by making the “Expanding Access to Sustainable Energy” (EASE) Act law. EASE helps rural communities to overcome barriers to implementing renewable energy projects.

Other

  • Support strong environmental justice programs to help communities most affected by the degradation of natural resource and climate change.

See additional policy platform details here.

Mayor Wayne Messam (D)

  • No climate or agriculture related campaign proposals available.

Beto O’Rourke (D)

Conservation

  • Invest in grants to farmers and ranchers for climate-related practices, such as improving soil management and the deployment of digesters.
  • Support conservation of ecosystems and biodiversity that accelerate net-zero emissions by leveraging “natural climate solutions.”

Crop Insurance and Subsidies

  • Expand the federal crop insurance program to offer more comprehensive risk management solutions.

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Increase access to technologies and markets that allow farmers and ranchers to profit from the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

See additional policy platform details here.

Representative Tim Ryan (D)

Crop Insurance and Subsidies

  • Shift subsidies from highly processed foods to more fruits, vegetables, and organic products.
  • Strengthen and expand safety nets for farmers, such as crop insurance.

Other

  • Support sustainable farming practices, including local and organic agriculture.

See additional policy platform details here and here.

Senator Bernie Sanders (D)

Conservation

  • Invest $410 billion in ecologically regenerative and sustainable agriculture by paying farmers to improve soil health and sequester carbon.
  • Invest $24.8 billion to improve CSP, ACEP and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to help farmers increase and improve conservation practices on their farms.
  • Invest $500 million in CRP to help farmers transition to organic.

Research

  • Invest $1.48 billion in new research to develop regionally adaptive seeds and farming techniques in response to changing climates.

GHG Emissions and Renewable Energy

  • Commit to a $200 billion Green Climate Fund to support reducing global emissions and reassert the United States’ leadership in the global fight against climate change.

Local and Regional Foods

  • Incentivize schools to source more locally produced foods, invest $14.7 billion in co-operatively owned grocery stores, and bolster programs that help farmers process and get their produce to markets.

Other

  • Transition confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) to ecologically regenerative practices.

See additional policy platform details here and here.

Mark Sanford (R)

  • No climate or agriculture related campaign proposals available.

Joe Sestak (D)

Crop Insurance and Subsidies

  • Subsidize organic and regenerative farming.

See additional policy platform details here.

Tom Steyer (D)

Research

  • Triple federal funding for climate science, including research for agriculture and soil health.

See additional policy platform details here.

President Donald Trump (R)   

  • No climate or agriculture related campaign proposals available.

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D)

Conservation

  • Increase CSP payments from $1 billion to $15 billion.
  • Expand the types of conversation practices eligible for CSP payments and add a new farmer-based research and innovation component.

Research

  • Provide funding for farmer-led innovations to “decarbonize the agriculture sector, and invest in land-grant universities and agriculture research that does the same.

Local and Regional Foods

  • Increase LAMP’s funding to $500 million a year to support food hubs and rural communities.

Other

  • Hold agribusinesses accountable for the cost of environmental damage and close loopholes that allow CAFOs to skirt environmental laws.

See additional policy platform details here.

Joe Walsh (R)

  • No climate or agriculture related campaign proposals available.

Governor Bill Weld (R)

  • No climate or agriculture related campaign proposals available.

Marianne Williamson (D)

Other

  • Sequester carbon through reforestation, improving soil quality on farms, and restoring wetlands and peatlands.
  • Promote sustainable agricultural and ranching practices.

See additional policy platform details here.

Andrew Yang (D)

Crop Insurance and Subsidies

  • Increase subsidies by $75 billion over the next 15 years for farms that experiment with new, sustainable techniques.

Research

  • Invest $2 billion in research to advance vertical farming techniques.
  • Support drought-resistant crop research.

Other

  • Invest $285.5 billion in sustainable agricultural, forestry, and land use methods.
  • Incentivize supermarkets to reduce food waste and source local foods by providing $300 million in tax credits.

See additional policy platform details here.

Setting the Table for Climate Change Conversations

These climate change policy proposals are as varied as the candidates themselves. The boldest of the proposals, for example, recognize that increasing climate variability has the potential to eradicate coastal and rural communities’ way of life and call for decisive actions. Other widely-supported proposals include achieving net-zero emissions, decarbonizing the economy, rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, holding polluters accountable, and providing new green jobs through technology and innovation. Trillions of federal dollars would be targeted toward climate change mitigation and adaptation if the climate and agriculture policies proposed by the majority of the front-runner candidates were enacted.

NSAC is pleased to see that many of the current candidates are taking a hard look at climate disruption challenges and how agriculture fits into climate adaptation and mitigation strategies. There are many common agriculture-related themes emerging from the field including:

Although NSAC takes no position on candidates or electoral politics, we do firmly support efforts to reach out to farmers to work collaboratively on finding solutions to climate change-related challenges.


Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment


5 responses to “Presidential Candidates Give Air Time to Climate Change and Agriculture”

  1. Sheral Marshall says:

    Though I’m not a farmer, I eat, so I’m very interested in the work you do. Please keep it up!
    Thank you for the wise way in which you communicate with us – not by daily e-mails!
    Blessings on the work you do and your efforts to remind folks of how much food we needlessly waste. Sheral Marshall, OSF

  2. […] Read Presidential Candidates Give Air Time to Climate Change and Agriculture on the NSAC blog… […]

  3. David Wall says:

    I appreciate those who would sequester carbon, but I didn’t see one candidate who gave a rodent’s posterior about GMOs and what they’re doing to our population. Shame candidates, shame!

  4. Mark Smith says:

    Coming from a harbor clearance background (military), as well as pursuing a degree in sustainable agriculture, I am curious as to why we aren’t concurrently considering the fact that we are entirely reliant on a high carbon logistics transport for all that we import/export. Sustainable agriculture must eventually rely on what each continent can grow within its own borders. Very few “experts” are even aware of our reliance on carbon based fuel for international shipping, and the fact that unlike automobiles, Archimedes principle and weather limit a ships ability to use solar energy. To quote a phrase, all of these “experts” may be “putting the cart before the horse”.

  5. Karen Miller says:

    I like to hear more about Senator Bennet platform on how to grow and invest in biofuel markets and his ideas on the production of zero-emission energy

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