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These Candidates See Farming as a Climate Solution. Here’s What They’re Proposing.

2020 Election Activities, Federal Regulation, Opinions, Policy, Sustainability
July 19, 2019

by Georgina Gustin (Inside Climate Change)  … Sen. Michael Bennet, like Biden, writes about voluntary markets to support better soil carbon practices. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg talked at the first debate about climate change and farming’s role, and how “the right kind of soil management and other kind of investments, rural America could be a huge part of how we get this done.”

“It could be a lesson from the last election cycle where we saw many of these Obama counties pivot” toward Donald Trump and the Republicans, said Adam Mason, state policy director for  Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, a farm and conservation advocacy group. “Rural areas feel abandoned and unheard by elected officials, especially Democrats. The pivot to Trump was a warning sign that they have to address rural communities.”

Warren’s platform is mostly aimed at antitrust enforcement and breaking up the mega-mergers of agricultural corporations. Sanders also addresses consolidation in agriculture—which has a profound climate impact—and points out that agricultural soils offer a huge and underutilized opportunity to store carbon.

But Biden’s plan, while lacking specific details, explicitly proposes to help farmers participate in carbon markets.

Corporations, individuals, and foundations interested in promoting greenhouse gas reductions could offset emissions by contributing to Conservation Stewardship Program payments to farmers for those sequestering carbon—for example, through cover crops. This will not only help combat climate change, which Vice President Biden has called an existential threat, but also create additional revenue sources for farmers at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet.”

The fact that climate change and agriculture are becoming a campaign topic at all is heartening to farm and conservation groups. But it’s unclear how the program would function, and it appears to rely on voluntary participation.

“We know voluntary doesn’t work,” Mason said. “The top line of the Biden plan sounds good, but the devil is going to be in the details.”

Researchers and even the United Nations, in a landmark report last year, have said that storing carbon in the soil through climate-friendly farming practices offers the most effective and expedient approach to controlling greenhouse gas emissions. But achieving net-zero emissions in American agriculture will likely require an all-out effort across the industry.

“It doesn’t say anything about the major sources of emissions, which we know are factory farms and synthetic nitrogen fertilizer,” said Ben Lilliston of the Minnesota-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, referring to the Biden proposal. “Voluntary environmental programs can get you so far, but at some point you need to address the sources of pollution, and you don’t see that with this proposal.”

The proposal also calls for boosting support for ethanol and next-generation biofuels. If that translates to more support for corn-based ethanol, critics say, it could counter any carbon benefits.

“You can’t say you want to move more land to conservation at the same time you’re propping up programs that promote biofuels and overproduction,” Mason said.

‘A Cautionary Tale’

Paying farmers to store carbon emerged as a national issue with the introduction, and ultimate collapse, of a climate bill known as Waxman-Markey that passed the House in 2009 but died in the Senate. The bill aimed to put an economywide cap-and-trade system into place to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

Ultimately, the powerful farm lobby worked with the oil industry to help kill the legislation, even after farm-state lawmakers ensured that farmers would not have to limit their emissions, but could participate in carbon markets and earn money by selling credits to polluters. At the time, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that farmers could generate $20 billion a year through a cap-and-trade system by 2050.

Since then, a handful of private companies have paid farmers for polluter credits, but the concept hasn’t taken off.

“It’s a cautionary tale,” Lilliston said. “Without a government policy to increase the price of carbon credits, it’s going to be hard for a private system to bring significant payments to farmers.”  READ MORE

Biden’s plan for rural America: Incentives will fix farm country (New Food Economy)

Democrats appear stymied on a top priority: climate legislation (Roll Call)

Energy dollars fueling presidential contest (E&E News)

How to help rural areas start to grow again? (AgWeek)

Time for a climate clash? ABOUT LAST NIGHT: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Presidential hopeful Klobuchar woos rural votes, vows help for farmers (Reuters)

A New Farm Economy (Elizabeth Warren)

Booker eyes farm conservation, reforestation and wetlands restoration in climate plan (The Hill)

With FDR’s New Deal as Blueprint, Booker Releases Climate Change Bill Focused on Investing in Farm Conservation Programs, Reforestation, and Wetlands Restoration: Proposal calls for funding voluntary farm stewardship on >100 million acres, planting >15 billion trees, restoring >2 million acres of coastal wetlands (Office of Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ))

Senator Booker Proposes “Nature-Based” Climate Legislation (Our Daily Planet)

Pete Buttigieg Puts Out Rural Economic Plan to Help Tackle Climate Change (Our Daily Planet)

A COMMITMENT TO AMERICA’S HEARTLAND: Unleashing the Potential of Rural America (Pete for America)

Warren Proposes Big Changes in Ag Sector to Help Farmers and Fight Climate Change (Our Daily Planet)

BUTTIGIEG’S RURAL PLAN: (Politico’s Morning Energy)

Pete Buttigieg: To tackle challenges like climate change, unlock the potential of rural America (Des Moines Register)

 

Excerpt from AgWeek:  Realizing the importance of rural voters, Democrats running for president are also starting to focus on how to help rural areas. This week, Democratic front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a very comprehensive plan that he says will include a rural economic development strategy to “invest in their unique assets, with the goal of giving young people more options to live, work and raise the next generation in rural America.”

If many of the ideas sound familiar, that’s because they echo similar themes expressed by then Sen. Barack Obama in 2007 as he campaigned in the Midwest.

For example, Biden says he would strengthen antitrust enforcement, create a low-carbon manufacturing sector in every state to grow the bioeconomy, invest $400 billion in clean energy with a focus on cellulosic biofuels, and invest $20 billion in rural broadband infrastructure. He pledges to dramatically expand the Conservation Stewardship Program to support farm income through payments that would protect the environment, including carbon sequestration.

Biden points out that part of the inequality between urban and rural areas is that some communities are more successful in accessing federal dollars than others. So, he wants to create a “Strike Force” to help rural communities access federal funds with priority given to persistent poverty counties.

Some of the other leading Democrats are also taking notice of rural issues. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg supports paying farmers for environmental stewardship and called for ramping ramp up research and deployment of conservation practices to deal with extreme weather.

But Democrats on the campaign trail will have to compete with a steady stream of tweets and announcements from President Donald Trump, who has talked about his support for farmers and rural communities more often than any president in modern history.  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy:  ABOUT LAST NIGHT: Democratic hopefuls once again only discussed their climate plans briefly last night, but the discussion managed to span issues including the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis to a declaration by Sen. Bernie Sanders that the fossil fuel industry is criminal.
“We’ve got to ask ourselves a simple question: What do you do with an industry that willingly, for billions of dollars in short-term profits, is destroying this planet. I say that is criminal activity that cannot be allowed to continue,” Sanders (I-Vt.) said.

The response came after more than an hour without a specific climate question. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney was the first to get a chance to respond to a climate question, by calling for a direct air capture market and panning the Green New Deal as unrealistic. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, meanwhile, called for “a sustainable and regenerative agriculture system that sequesters carbon into the soil,” and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren highlighted a “green industrial policy” plan that “takes advantage of the fact that we do what we do best, which is innovate and create.”

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said “a voice from the Heartland” is required to make progress on infrastructure and climate change, and called for changing the capital gains rate to pay for rural broadband and green infrastructure.

Author Marianne Williamson used her time to put the drinking water crisis in plain terms: “We need to say it like it is, it’s bigger than Flint. It’s all over this country. It’s particularly people of color. It’s particularly people who do not have the money to fight back.”

READY FOR ROUND 2: The remaining 10 Democrats will debate tonight, and it’s expected to be more combative. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signaled he’ll go after his opponents for their lack of action on climate change. Inslee — who unveiled another climate plan Monday — wrote an op-ed this week on the need for Democrats to increase their focus on the issue, and tweeted last night that he was “mad as hell” climate was not brought up in the first hour. Not to mention, the super PAC supporting him unveiled new ads this week hitting several front-runners for not making climate change a high priority.

Eyes will also be on former Vice President Joe Biden after his previous debate clash with Sen. Kamala Harris, whom he’ll face again tonight. This time the California Democrat will come armed with new environmental justice legislation she crafted with Green New Deal author Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Reuters: Her (Amy Klobuchar’s) plan will also call for a loan forgiveness program for students who study agriculture and work in rural areas, according to a draft seen by Reuters on Tuesday night.

In addition to support for farmers, the plan also calls for repair of rural bridges and a modernization program for locks controlling the flow of water through the Mississippi river.

In a move that may anger environmentalists, Klobuchar also calls for allowing more ethanol, the automobile fuel additive made from corn, to be used in U.S. cars during the summer.

The high-level mixture was banned during the summer by the administration of former President Barack Obama because of air quality concerns. The Trump administration has moved to allow it, and Klobuchar said she would push for legislation to permanently keep more of the corn-based fuel in the mix.  READ MORE

 

Excerpt from Politico’s Morning Energy: BUTTIGIEG’S RURAL PLAN: South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg unveiled a rural economy plan Tuesday ahead of a trip to Iowa, joining a pack of Democratic presidential contenders who’ve rolled out their own in recent weeks, POLITICO’s Arren Kimbel-Sannit reports. The plan would bolster rural economic development programs and partnerships, support the development of climate change resiliency by farmers and create “community-driven broadband networks” that will function as public or quasi-public utilities in regions where private companies don’t provide connections.

Buttigieg’s plan promises $50 billion over 10 years from USDA in research and development of technology and practices that producers can use to fight or mitigate climate change, including through soil carbon sequestration, Arren writes.

Biofuels would also get a boost under the plan. Buttigieg would stop “the abuse of ‘small refinery’ exemptions” under the Renewable Fuel Standard as carried out by the Trump administration, according to the plan. It also calls for the establishment of next-generation Resilience Hubs to share climate resilience data and tools.  READ MORE

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Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) Rhode Island Ricardo rice rice bran oil rice hulls rice husks rice straw RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) RIMPAC RINs (Renewable Identification Numbers) RINs markets RINs price risk management RJ-4 RJ-6 RME (rape methyl ester) RME180 RNA (Ribonucleic acid) roadmap rocket fuel Romania RON (Research Octane Number) rotation crops royalties RTP (rapid thermal processing) rubber rumen ruminants rural development Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Rural Energy Self-Sufficiency Initiative Russia Russian olive rutabaga Rwanda ry rye Rye grass s saccharification Safer and Affordable Fuel Efficient Vehicles (SAFE) safety safflower sago pond weed SAIC SAK sales Salicornia salt-tolerant saltbush saltcedar sal tree salt water Sanctions Santa Monica sardine oil Saskatchewan Saudi Arabia sawdust scale up Scandinavia scholarships/fellowships Science Advisory Board (SAB) Science Policy Scotland scum sea level rise 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