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Farm Bill ignores climate change—mostly
Used under creative commons license from mtungate

In all of the discussions and proposals associated with the current Farm Bill debate, climate change has gotten little official recognition (although we have pointed out that from IATP’s perspective, the singular focus on crop insurance is clear evidence that climate change is the primary concern of farmers and agriculture state politicians). As the Farm Bill debate goes to the Senate floor, we apploaud two amendments that are trying to bring greater recognition of climate change to the farm policy discussion. 

The first, Senator Whitehouse’s Sense of the Senate Resolution #1029, is a largely symbolic, yet ultimately very important resolution about the authenticity of climate change science and determined causes. This resolution expresses that it is the sense of the Senate that climate change research is in fact based on sound practices, that a scientific consensus exists that humans are contributing to climate change, and that climate change poses a risk to agriculture and related industries. While “Sense of the Senate” resolutions do not result in any direct legislative actions or laws, passage of this resolution would be an important, if quite belated indicator that the U.S. Congress is finally getting serious about climate change and its impacts, especially as they relate to agriculture and our food system.

The second could be more directly meaningful for farmers and landowners. Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Udall (D-NM) are introducing the Whitehouse-Udall Regional Conservation Partnership Program Amendment #1058. This amendment expands the list of eligible activities within the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to include projects with climate change benefits. Including this as an area of focus will allow farmers and other landowners to receive support for projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, sequester carbon and help them adapt to changing climate.

While these admittedly modest proposals do not in any way make up for the fact that most of our farm policy deliberately ignores the real threats we as farmers and eaters alike face in a changing climate (and in most cases actually continues to support the kind of production systems that are most vulnerable), they do serve to help open the door to increased and needed recognition of the realities of the crisis and the types of farming systems and practices that can help our farmers and ranchers adapt and help to slow climate change. For that, they deserve recognition and strong support in the current Farm Bill debate.