Presidential Candidates Give Air Time to Climate Change and Agriculture
September 18, 2019
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)
Assist farmers with transitioning to
voluntary practices that sequester carbon.
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.
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.
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.
Invest in research into cellulosic
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Establish Resilience Hubs that provide regional climate data so that communities can manage risks with financial assistance from federal Resilient America Grants.
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.
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.
Support strong environmental justice programs to help communities most affected by the degradation of natural resource and climate change.
Setting the Table for Climate
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:
Scaling up investments in climate change and agricultural research
Reducing barriers to innovation
Reforming current policies that contribute to environmental damage
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.