Warren, Gillibrand roll out climate plans for agriculture

Source: By Timothy Cama, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, August 8, 2019

Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are eyeing the agriculture sector in their presidential campaign climate change platforms.

Both Democratic hopefuls released policy plans for rural America and agriculture this morning, with components that seek to incentivize sustainable farming practices and push the industry to emit less greenhouse gases.

The plans came the day before the annual Iowa State Fair, a key agricultural event in the presidential primary process, hosted in the state whose February caucus will be the first nomination contest of the 2020 race.

Warren’s proposals largely fit into her previous climate platforms, including her endorsement of the Green New Deal and her green manufacturing proposal, which seeks to reduce the environmental impact of major industries.

“As president, I will lead a full-out effort to decarbonize the agricultural sector by investing in our farmers and giving them the tools, research, and training they need to transform the sector — so that we can achieve the objectives of the Green New Deal to reach net-zero emissions by 2030,” Warren wrote in her proposal for “A New Farm Economy.”

A central piece of her plan is to increase funding for the existing federal Conservation Stewardship Program to $15 billion annually, from the current budget of about $1 billion, while expanding the activities and practices for which farmers can get funding, “so that every farmer who wants to use their land to fight climate change can do so.”

Warren said part of the $400 billion she previously proposed to fund research and development for her green manufacturing program would go to agriculture-focused R&D, “including a farmer-led Innovation Fund that farmers can apply to use towards pioneering new methods of sustainable farming, like agroforestry.”

Gillibrand promised in her plan to “put farmers and rural communities in the driver’s seat to lead the nation’s climate action,” which would include paying farmers for climate-friendly practices and helping them improve their profitability.

Like Warren, part of Gillibrand’s plan focuses on the Conservation Stewardship Program, which she promised to improve, along with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program “to support farmers who want to implement new, validated practices to stem climate change. [They would be] eligible to receive payments to implement carbon sequestration on their farm as they do for providing other environmental services.”

The New York senator’s proposals also include building out solar and wind energy to help power farms, along with microgrids.

She would additionally compensate forest owners for environmentally friendly forestry, “so rural economies that depend on public lands and forests will be compensated not just for the timber they produce but for the environmental services, spaces for recreation, and durable carbon sequestration they provide.”

The idea of enlisting farmers in the climate fight, and more specifically paying them for sustainable practices, is not new in the 2020 Democratic primary.

Some of the same concepts were in former Maryland Rep. John Delaney’s rural communities plan released earlier this year, and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan frequently refers to the environmental benefits of certain farming techniques for carbon sequestration and other purposes.

“We need to convert our industrial agriculture system over to a sustainable and regenerative agriculture system that actually sequesters carbon into the soil,” he said at the July 30 primary debate in Detroit.