As President Donald Trump weighs the merits of keeping the United States in the Paris Agreement, National Farmers Union (NFU) is urging the administration to maintain U.S. commitments to global leadership on climate change. The Paris Agreement is vital to enhancing the climate resiliency of family farm operations and rural communities, and it allows family farmers and ranchers to join carbon sequestration efforts that stimulate economic growth in rural America.
The President is expected to make a decision on whether to stay in the Paris Agreement by late May. NFU has been an adamant proponent of the agreement since its adoption in 2015.
“Farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and they have been experiencing costly disruption from climate change for some time,” said NFU President Roger Johnson in a letter to President Trump. “We ask that you maintain our existing commitments under the Paris Agreement. The contributions rural communities can make under the agreement will drive economic growth in the countryside and make American agriculture more resilient to extreme weather.”
The United States, under the Paris Agreement, has a current target of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 26-28% by 2025. Many of the actions that would help the country achieve that goal would create jobs and stimulate economic growth in rural communities.
“In particular, incentives to encourage farmers, ranchers and forest owners to sequester more carbon would benefit rural communities,” Johnson said. “Those new revenue streams create new jobs and give young people another reason to stay on the farm and in small towns. They could also serve as an innovative part of addressing an emerging farm crisis before it reaches full maturity.”
Johnson added that other means of achieving the U.S. Paris commitments could also help the countryside, including an increasing emphasis on energy efficiency and community planning that protects farmland. He also noted that biofuels and increased biomass in the energy sector offer a growing market for agricultural products, creating a growth opportunity for the farm economy and dependent rural businesses.
Johnson asserted that the overall positive impact the Paris commitments would have on rural communities and American agriculture warrant digging in on and discussing difficult issues brought about by the Agreement. This includes efforts to decarbonize the power grid, which will be challenging for coal-powered rural power generation, and reducing agricultural methane, which would be ineffective to administer and counterproductive.
“We should not dispose of the Paris commitments in their entirety for the purpose of avoiding confrontation on a few controversial issues,” Johnson said. “NFU asserts the value of seeking agreeable paths forward on rural power generation and livestock methane.”
Family farmers and ranchers have been experiencing costly disruption from climate change for some time, including more frequent and intense drought, flooding and wildfires, and such disruptions are expected to increase in frequency and severity over time.
“Many of the ways in which rural communities can achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions pursuant to the U.S. Paris commitments will also make farming and ranching operations and rural communities more resilient to the escalating negative consequences of climate change,” Johnson said. “Americans who produce our food and live in rural areas recognize the opportunity for economic growth, climate resilience and strong communities under the Paris Agreement. We urge you to maintain our existing commitments.”