WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, recently held a hearing to discuss how farmers, ranchers, and foresters can be a part of the solution to the climate crisis.
“The climate crisis might seem insurmountable, but our farmers and foresters are an important part of the solution,” Chairwoman Stabenow said in her opening statement. “Whether it’s a corn and soybean grower planting cover crops after harvest, or a dairy farmer installing solar panels on the roof of their barn, or a forester managing their land to grow more mature trees that hold more carbon – these climate-smart steps are good for the planet and good for business.
“Healthier, carbon-rich soil means lower fertilizer costs. Renewable energy helps lower utility bills. And thinning out smaller trees can help the big trees grow bigger, providing a revenue opportunity for the family forest owner.
“These approaches are working. They make sense. And now it’s time to dramatically scale up this work through policies that are voluntary, producer-led, and bipartisan.”
Chairwoman Stabenow has led the effort in the U.S. Senate to advance bipartisan climate policy that engages agriculture and forestry as part of the solution to the climate crisis. She is a co-sponsor of several key bipartisan climate-smart agriculture and forestry bills, set to be reintroduced in the coming weeks:
- The Growing Climate Solutions Act establishes a structure at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help farmers and foresters implement climate-smart practices and tap into new economic opportunities through voluntary carbon markets.
- The REPLANT Act reforests and plants trees in a responsible way to store carbon and promote other benefits on national forests.
- The Rural Forests Markets Act helps small-scale, family foresters access new economic opportunities through climate solutions like carbon markets.
The Committee heard testimony from farmers and foresters who represent five organizations that are a part of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. The producers stressed the importance of finding solutions to the climate crisis:
Cori Wittman Stitt, Idaho diversified crop farmer, rancher, and forester and Farmer Advisor, Environmental Defense Fund: “As a fourth-generation farmer, raising a seven-month-old, fifth-generation farmer, we continually operate with the future in mind. Climate change is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the future of our industry. We in agriculture like to boast that we are the best stewards of the land, but that also means we have the most to lose should we ignore the erratic weather conditions and growing consumer concern about the impacts of climate change. These current realities make it imperative that we find solutions that ensure climate-smart, sustainable food production.”
Stefanie Smallhouse, Arizona cattle rancher and President, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation: “Agriculture is no stranger to the conversation about climate sustainability. … Building upon the solid foundation of voluntary stewardship investments and practices, such as those in the Farm Bill, we look forward to working with policymakers to further advance successful sustainable practices in U.S. agriculture. … We want to be responsible stewards of the resources we will pass to the next generation, while feeding and clothing people, fueling a nation and promoting vibrant communities.”
John Reifsteck, Illinois grain farmer and Chairman, GROWMARK cooperative, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives: “Throughout my lifetime of farming, I constantly have sought out ways to reduce my environmental impact—it is good for the environment, it is good for my farm and it is the right thing to do. … I commend the work of Chairwoman Stabenow and Senator Braun in co-sponsoring the Growing Climate Solutions Act to help break down barriers and provide more certainty for farmers, ranchers and forest owners who want to participate in carbon markets. If farmers are to be part of solving climate challenges, we need to rely on proven science, accurate data and standardization to help us get there—this bill is an important step in that direction.”
Mark Isbell, Arkansas rice farmer, USA Rice: “It is important that carbon markets develop in a way that farmers of all regions and farms of all sizes can be partners with the public in addressing climate change. … With a studied, nuanced, and inclusive approach, this committee can play a role in unleashing the enduring creativity of American agriculture to attenuate climate change. If the Senate intends to address climate change, agriculture is a proven sound investment.”
Clay Pope, Oklahoma wheat farmer and cattle rancher, National Farmers Union: “The bottom line is that our investment in soil health has helped us better prepare our farm for climate change in a way that has helped both our productivity and the environment. It has worked for us, and I believe it can for other farmers and ranchers as well. … For the last four years we have had some of our best wheat crops ever while using roughly half of the fertilizer we did when we conventionally tilled our land.”
–U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry
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