Over 10,000 small farmers and ranchers are making their voices heard, uniting to form a coalition in support of the Green New Deal (GND). This coalition views changes in the agriculture sector as essential to addressing climate change; they want to be front and center, and resolve to work alongside lawmakers to form policy.
The current system of industrial agriculture is responsible for about 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Those emissions are largely due to large-scale monoculture farming and beef production.
97% of beef produced comes from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These feedlots with their thousands of animals have an adverse impact on groundwater, surface water, and air. About 50% of the U. S. corn crop and its vast acreage in the Midwest, is dedicated to feeding these animals – mostly cattle. The balance is largely used for ethanol and high-fructose corn syrup production. Less than 5% goes into quality food (corn) that we eat.
These farming practices are not only unsustainable in the long-term – as contends this coalition of farmers and ranchers – they accelerate weather extremes and natural disasters.
Together, the administration and agribusiness monopolies are focused upon short-term economic benefits. Currently, corporate agriculture receives around $13 billion in annual subsidies through the Farm Bill. In addition to corn, other monoculture crops grown largely in support of industrial-scale livestock operations include: wheat, soybeans, rice, and peanuts.
While pointing to the ills of the current system, the small farmers coalition also highlights the sustainable benefits of building small-scale, local food systems: carbon sequestration in rich soils, local access to healthy food, and safe conditions for farmworkers. They insist that diversity of food produced, the re-building of rural communities, and racial diversity of farm ownership also be part of the solution. They want to go beyond organic and advocate for regenerative practices.
As part of the GND, this resolution aims to incentivize a shift back toward quality food grown in a way that values rich, living soils and a healthy environment. A shift to local food suppliers would mean a shift away from the dominant corporate commodity paradigm. Industrial-scale economics would be displaced by sustainable operations that produce a variety of crops and integrate all aspects of agriculture into each productive farm.
Raising livestock using grass-fed, regenerative ranching methods is labor intensive and does result in expensive meat. The resulting economics would decrease demand and consumption. If met with equivalent shifts in organic vegetable production, both the environment and public health will benefit.
In 2019, in spite of the current administration’s strong ties to the corporate-led food supply chain, the Dept. of Agricultural awarded $41.4 million in funds for projects that promote and provide incentives for low-income consumers to purchase more fruits and vegetables directly from local, small-scale farmers.
A recently released policy position paper authored by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Agriculture and Climate Change: Policy Imperatives and Opportunities to Help Producers Meet the Challenge, edifies funding opportunities and areas that can benefit from new legislation. (See first link under Resources).
Lawmakers united with this coalition include: U.S. Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and Debra Haaland (D-NM). They have stepped forward in favor of ending subsidies for industrial monoculture, and recognize the link between these methods and rising temperatures, drought, irregular and severe storms, and flooding. They anticipate that American family farm culture can be revived.
- https://sustainableagriculture.net/ is an alliance of grassroots organizations that advocates for federal policy reform to advance the sustainability of agriculture, food systems, natural resources, and rural communities.
- https://regenerationinternational.org/ is to promoting, facilitating and accelerating the global transition to regenerative food, farming and land management for the purpose of restoring climate stability.
- https://www.sunrisemovement.org/ is building an army of young people to make climate change an urgent priority.
- https://www.buylocalfood.org/ strengthens farms and engages the community to build the local food economy.
- https://cfaky.org/ organizes cooperation among rural and urban citizens through leadership development and grassroots democratic processes to ensure an essential, prosperous place for family-scale agriculture.
Photo by NASA