Farm groups launch CO2 coalition — without saying ‘climate’

Source: By Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 20, 2020

Farm groups are trying to put a positive face on agriculture’s relationship with climate change policy.

Twenty-one organizations said today they’ve launched a new coalition to promote conservation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, coalition representatives said they also hope to combat what they consider misperceptions or misinformation about agriculture’s role in climate change.

“This is an issue that has haunted us for as long as I can remember,” said Ethan Lane, vice president for government affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association — one of the participating groups — at a news conference.

The initiative is called Farmers for a Sustainable Future. Member groups represent growers of soybeans, corn, cotton, sugar and other crops, as well as the National Farmers Union, which tends to be more Democratic-leaning than the Republican-heavy Farm Bureau.

Lane said the creation of the new group could be a defining moment for American agriculture as a variety of organizations try to unite around environmental issues that still sow divisions between farm groups and regions of the country. But he and other representatives acknowledged that even the terminology — “climate change” versus “sustainability,” for instance — isn’t a point of universal agreement among members.

The term “climate change” didn’t appear in any of the organization’s promotional material or in the brief remarks made by the groups’ representatives. And Michael Formica, the National Pork Producers Council’s vice president for domestic affairs and counsel, said that he’s not sure whether climate change is human-induced — but that farmers need to adjust all the same.

Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said there are “different levels of interest around the country” about climate change.

He added, “We’re here today to talk about solutions, so it should speak for itself that we’re very interested in how it affects our farmers, the consumers and our rural communities.”

While the groups promoted agriculture’s ability to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions through soil conservation, for instance, they didn’t endorse specific goals. They emphasized what they consider a relatively small impact from agriculture in the first place, about 9% of total U.S. emissions.

“Nine percent for all of American agriculture, for all the things we accomplish, is a bargain,” Lane said.