Guest editorial: Climate-smart farming |

Guest editorial: Climate-smart farming

We need funding in the 2023 Farm Bill to support innovative farming practices

Mary Closser, Citizens Climate Lobby–Wasatch Back Chapter Park City
Park Record guest editorial

Climate is a hot topic in Congress and among Utah farmers. Come summer, during farmers markets’ prime time, discussions about climate smart farming may take precedence over those about extreme weather and electric vehicles. The Farm Bill, passed every five years, expires in October 2023. The original bill dates to the Great Depression when Congress assisted the struggling agricultural community. And today the Farm Bill continues to direct policy for our food and farm systems — it deeply affects farming livelihoods, natural resources that make growing food possible, and what kinds of crops are grown.

As pollution from agriculture contributes 11% of U.S. climate pollution, climate smart farming must be addressed in the bill. It’s interesting that agriculture and waste emissions are expected to remain neutral through 2035, whereas the power sector by 2035 could emit fewer emissions than agriculture!

It has taken decades to develop EV and solar technology and it is now time to prioritize research and development for agricultural technology, by asking for Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funds to support a transition to climate-smart farming practices. What are some of the areas needing to be addressed?

The U.S.A. alone supports approximately 92 million cows every year, or one cow for every three people. Cows consume crops like corn, soy and alfalfa – some of which could feed the poverty stricken. Cows also emit heaps of climate-damaging methane. Is it possible to provide farmers and ranchers options to transition to domestic plant-based crops for human consumption, and therefore lower the intensive energy- and water-use needed to raise cows? Do we have a civic responsibility to help by maybe starting with Meatless Mondays?

My answer is yes, for our health, environment and common home.

Additionally, U.S. soils are degrading, resulting in fewer harvests, farmer debt, water scarcity and species’ extinction. However, research is thriving on soil health and state-of-art farming technologies like Agroforestry, no-till, crop rotation and more – all for the soil. Regenerative agriculture enhances the ecosystem of the farm, providing biodiversity, watershed retention, storage of carbon dioxide and also uses fewer hazardous pesticides. However, these farming practices require adequate education and funding for farmers and the supporting institutions.  

It’s encouraging that there is bipartisan awareness that farmers bear the costs of climate impacts and have an important role in cutting emissions. How can federal programs and policies support agriculture’s adaptation to our changing climate? Fortunately, the IRA has allocated almost $20 billion to agricultural producers and forest landowners to participate in conservation programs and adopt climate-smart practices.

We need funding in the 2023 Farm Bill to support innovative farming practices while providing equitable opportunity for funding and preservation of large and small farms and ranches, not just monopolies. We need improved access to regionally sourced food and markets than can give us clean and fresh food. We need to empower our next generation of cherished farmers to shift from monocultures to biodiverse farming practices.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby helped pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act. It’s an overwhelmingly bipartisan bill, helping farmers, ranchers and foresters understand and access lucrative carbon markets to reduce emissions and boost farm income. So yes, we as citizens have influence on how monies are distributed in the 2023 Farm Bill if we speak up. Start now. Reach out to members of the House Agriculture Committee and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry asking for IRA funds to support a transition to climate-smart farming practices. And finally, consider climate impact the next time you are grocery shopping or ordering from a menu. Every action counts.

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