OPINION  An alliance of groups representing farmers, forest owners, the food sector, state governments and environmental advocates have unveiled an unprecedented set of recommendations to guide the development of federal climate policy.

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance was formed in February 2020 by four groups that now co-chair the alliance.

  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
  • National Farmers Union

The alliance has since expanded to include:

  • FMI-The Food Industry Association
  • National Alliance of Forest Owners
  • National Association of State Departments of Agriculture
  • The Nature Conservancy

The group has developed more than 40 recommendations based on three principles.

  • Agricultural and forestry climate policies must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities.
  • Policies must promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities.
  • Policies must be science-based.

Those recommendations share an overarching goal to do no harm. Climate policies will impact farmers, forest owners, ranchers, rural and limited-resources communities, wildlife and natural resources. They must be thoughtfully crafted to account for any potential inequities, consequences and tradeoffs.

Zippy Duvall, Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance co-chair and president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said, “We are proud to have broken through historical barriers to form this unique alliance focused on climate policy. We began discussions not knowing whether we would ultimately reach agreement. 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.”

Fred Krupp, Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance co-chair and president of Environmental Defense Fund, said, “The wide array of perspectives represented in this group – farmers, ranchers, forest owners and environmental advocates – sends a powerful message to Capitol Hill about the urgent need for bipartisan climate legislation. More-resilient farms and forests protect the agricultural economy, reduce risk from the climate impacts that are already here and help prevent worsening climate impacts in the future.”

Chuck Conner, Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance co-chair and president of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said, “Much as a farmer co-op gets its strength from uniting many producers to achieve a single goal, so too does (the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance). Through (the alliance) the food, forestry and agriculture sectors can speak with a single voice on climate and, leveraging the unique perspectives and special talents of its members, help drive the conversation about the role that the food, forestry and agriculture sectors can play in addressing climate policy.”

Rob Larew, Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance co-chair and president of the National Farmers Union, said, “Climate change is adding another enormous variable to the already unpredictable work of farming. Every year farmers face more-frequent and severe weather events, making it just that much harder to make a profit. There are concrete actions farmers can take to build resilience to weather extremes and pull carbon out of the atmosphere, but they need strong policy behind them. The recommendations we’ve compiled are a good place to start.”

Overview of climate-policy recommendations

  • Provide voluntary, incentive-based tools and additional technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and foresters to maximize the sequestration of carbon and the reduction of other greenhouse gas emissions, and increase climate resilience.
  • Foster the development of private sector greenhouse-gas markets. The public sector should ensure that verifiable reductions occur, and provide farmers and forest owners with the technical support needed to participate.
  • Use an array of 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 greenhouse-gas emissions of agriculture- and forestry-based renewable energy.
  • Reduce the greenhouse-gas impact of food waste and loss by streamlining confusing consumer-facing packaging, and implementing a public-private partnership to achieve a meaningful and workable food-date-labeling program.
  • Increase federal investment in agricultural, forestry and food-related research substantially and continuously.

The group’s recommendations cover six areas of focus – soil health, livestock and dairy, forests and wood products, energy, research, and food loss and waste. Visit www.agclimatealliance.com for more information.

The alliance welcomes additional members. Email inquires@agclimatealliance.com with questions about membership or the group’s climate-policy recommendations.