Ag groups form new climate policy, advocacy coalition

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Twenty-one agricultural commodity and industry groups have formed a new coalition they say will focus on unifying the industry’s message on climate policy and advocacy.

Farmers for a Sustainable Future, launched Feb. 19, on Capitol Hill, will focus on unifying the industry message on sustainability across sectors, according to members. “This coalition was formed to be a primary resource for lawmakers [and] policymakers while they’re considering climate guidelines,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. He went on to describe the groups’ other focus, to “be a good resource for the media and the general public.”

The coalition’s stated goal is to ensure reasonable policies and strategies to protect resources for the next generation.

Big gains

Representatives from several animal and crop groups lauded the industry’s existing successes in increasing efficiency and intensification, focusing on data that they say proves their industries have already made big sustainability gains.

Michael Formica, assistant vice president at the National Pork Producers Federation, said farmers have harnessed technology to produce high-quality, low-cost products for years, and that telling that story will be a significant part of the coalition’s work.

“Our goal is to continue improving those numbers, but we do want people to understand how good a job we’re doing really well already,” Formica said.

Despite past successes, the coalition won’t be setting any emission reduction goals. Solutions, Duvall emphasized, need to be local, so coalition members will instead focus on improving sustainability practices within their sector.

Innovation incentives

Members say they also plan to utilize the coalition to continue helping their farmer members use science, technology, and innovation to reduce the impacts of greenhouse gases. “We’re going to use this coalition to focus on incentivizing innovation to reduce barriers to that innovation — in addition to focusing on science-based research, resilient infrastructure and outcomes,” said Ethan Lane, vice president of governement affairs for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

Details on how the coalition plans to achieve these goals are limited.

Climate change

Though Duvall and others avoided direct discussion of climate change in their announcement, they say that their members are ready to talk about solutions, despite varying levels of interest between farmers in different areas of the country and in different commodity groups.

“We’re very interested in how it [climate change] affects our farmers, the consumers, and our rural communities,” Duvall said when prompted. Formica added that, though his organization isn’t certain whether the changing climate is human- or naturally-induced, their membership still needs to prepare for those changes.

He went on to say, “I think it’s the end result that matters, that you’ve reduced your emissions.”

Sustainable

Leaders say they’ll look for opportunities to assist farmers economically in making the transition to more sustainable practices. “We think there’s opportunities there to have incentives for farmers to participate,” Duvall said. He added that partnerships with corporations and climate-related foundations and nonprofits offer opportunities, in addition to government programs, for landowners to see a better financial return on investments in sustainability.

Duvall called it an “all of the above” strategy, underlining that the coalition is invested in environmental and economic sustainability.

Member organizations also include the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, United Egg Producers, and the National Milk Producers Federation.

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Sarah Mock is a freelance agriculture and rural issues reporter based in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at sarahkmock1@gmail.com.

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