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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Climate change and the Farm Bill

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Climate change wasn’t always the political hot potato it is today. 

—Christian Science Monitor  Full article here

Last month, Congress held initial hearings to inform the 2018 Farm Bill.|

Agriculture Committee members heard about the struggling farm economy, crop insurance, and rural development. One issue that wasn’t discussed, despite its profound impact on farmers, is climate change….

The 1990 Farm Bill included a title called the Global Climate Change Prevention Act. That title established a program at the USDA to coordinate climate-related issues within the giant agency….This work included coordinating both inter-agency work as well as representing the USDA at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had just been established in 1988. Specifically, the new climate change program was to study the impacts of climate change (including drought, extreme weather, new pests) on crop production and explore the potential for developing more climate-resilient crops….

…the climate change title was primarily focused on a research agenda, rather than a regulatory framework that directly threatened the agriculture or fossil fuel industries….

…Another factor is that the fossil fuel industry hadn’t kicked into over-drive their campaign to politicize and discredit climate science. That multi-decade effort, even after company scientists at Exxon/Mobil had warned the company about climate change going back to the 1970s, shifted the political discussion around climate. Working particularly closely with the Bush-Cheney administration, the industry spent millions to sow doubts about climate science and reinforce the perception that environmentalists had conjured up climate change to advance their agenda….

…Following the science, and what they are seeing in the field and supply chains, most major agribusiness and food companies are not waiting for Congress to act. CargillGeneral MillsMonsanto, and fertilizer giant Yara, among others, are openly touting how they are responding to climate change. Increasingly, farm groups like the National Farmers Union are pushing for reforms that support climate resilience.

…Congressional inaction on climate change, led by Republicans, unfortunately reflects what is now a fiercely partisan issue. A recent Pew poll confirmed that political partisanship is the single biggest factor determining people’s views on climate change.That partisanship on climate change is continuing in the 2018 Farm Bill. Even as their home states struggle to recover from yet another extreme weather event—a devastating wildfire that killed more than 10,000 cattle across three states…

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