A number of agricultural industry organizations have formed an alliance to establish a set of recommendations to guide the development of federal climate policy. The coalition, called the Food and Climate Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA), is cochaired by four groups: the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF); Environmental Defense Fund; National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; and National Farmers Union.
The groups formed the alliance in February of this year, and the organization has expanded to include FMI, Food Industry Association; National Alliance of Forest Owners; National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; and The Nature Conservancy.
“We began discussions not knowing whether we would ultimately reach agreement,” said Zippy Duvall, FACA cochair and president of AFBF. “It was important to me to reject punitive climate policy ideas of the past in favor of policies that respect farmers and support positive change. Our final recommendations do just that.”
Together, the groups represent farmers, forest owners, the food sector, state governments, and environmental advocates. FACA has developed more than 40 recommendations for federal climate policy based on three principles: agricultural and forestry climate policies must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities; they must promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities; and they must be science-based.
“These recommendations share an overarching goal to do no harm,” a press release from FACA stated. “Climate policies will impact farmers, forest owners, ranchers, rural and limited-resources communities, wildlife and natural resources and must be thoughtfully crafted to account for any potential inequities, consequences and tradeoffs.”
The recommendations cover six areas of focus: soil health, livestock and dairy, forests and wood products, energy, research, and food loss and waste. The following are an overview of FACA’s policy recommendations:
• Provide voluntary, incentive-based tools and additional technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and foresters to maximize carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and increase climate resilience;
• Develop private sector GHG markets. The public sector should ensure that verifiable reductions occur and provide farmers and forest owners with the technical support needed to participate;
• Use public and private sector tools to incentivize agricultural and forestry producers to prioritize and scale climate-smart practices;
• Incentivize farmers to reduce energy consumption and increase on-farm renewable energy production, and make continued progress toward reducing the lifecycle GHG emissions of agriculture- and forestry-based renewable energy;
• Reduce the GHG impact of food waste and loss by streamlining confusing packaging and implementing a public-private partnership to achieve a meaningful and workable food date-labeling program; and
• Increase federal investment in agriculture, forestry and food-related research substantially and continuously.
Livestock and dairy
For the livestock- and dairy-specific policy recommendations, FACA recommends providing economic and environmental benefits through incentive-based methods focused on manure management, nutrition and genetics, and pasture/grazing management practices.
• Manure management—FACA’s recommendations for manure management include: Provide technical assistance and support updated conservation practices; use Department of Energy expertise and funding; incentivize digesters; and expand eligibility for the Rural Energy for America program to include cooperatives. The group noted current tools for farmers to reduce emissions from manure are through challenging and limited USDA programs.
• Feed, nutrition, and genetics—For feed, nutrition, and genetics, FACA recommends expediting Food and Drug Administration feed additive approvals; providing a risk- and science- based regulatory pathway to streamline the approval process for animal biotechnology; creating Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation practices based on nutrition and genetic management; and ensuring feed, genetics and nutrition management are eligible under the Conservation Innovation Grant On-Farm Trial Program.
FACA noted changes in feed composition can have an impact on reducing methane emissions from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock, but new technologies to reduce enteric emissions often face regulatory challenges. The group recommends incentives for farmers changing feed rations, testing new feed additives, or making changes to their genetics in order to offset the farmer’s risk.
• Pasture and grazing—FACA recommends funding and tools for pasture and grazing management to increase carbon sequestration. This could be accomplished through NRCS identifying regions and practices with the greatest potential for carbon sequestration and methane emissions reduction, and offering support through research and development of tools for climate and land stewardship. The group also recommends mandatory funding for the National Grazing Lands Coalition and new elements in the program’s purpose.
Increasing funding for technical assistance is key to help farmers and ranchers carry out prescribed grazing practices, FACA said.
The full policy recommendations can be viewed at agclimatealliance.com. — Anna Miller, WLJ editor