Nearly 10,000 farmers and ranchers are endorsing the Green New Deal as the climate policy battleground expands from the oil fields to the agricultural fields.
In a letter sent to Congress on Wednesday morning, the newly formed bipartisan coalition U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal threw its weight behind the sweeping industrial plan outlined in a resolution that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) proposed in February.
But zeroing out the country’s planet-heating emissions by mid-century requires a transformation in agriculture as dramatic as shifting the energy sector away from fossil fuels, the letter says.
“We believe these climate goals are achievable,” the letter argues, “but only if the GND includes policies that spur two large-scale transitions: the transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy alternatives, and the transition away from industrial agriculture toward family farm-based organic and regenerative farming and land-use practices that improve soil health and draw down and sequester carbon.”
The letter was signed by more than 500 individual farms and 50 organizations representing close to 10,000 members. Regeneration International, a sustainable farming nonprofit, organized the missive with the climate justice group Sunrise Movement. It also hosted a Wednesday morning press conference in Washington.
A month ago, the United Nations released a dire new report urging major changes to food production and land management and warning that emissions cuts alone will fall short of halting catastrophic global warming.
Taking cues from those pushing for a Green New Deal, several Democratic presidential hopefuls have made farming practices central to their climate proposals. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) earmarked $410 billion in his Green New Deal proposal to help “farms of all sizes transition to ecologically regenerative agricultural practices.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for breaking up agriculture monopolies as part of her broad rural platform. South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg vowed to “support farmers” by “paying them to capture carbon.”
Yet even as farmers reel from the effects of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, Democratic candidates are far from guaranteed their votes. Farmers supported the Trump administration’s proposal last week to finalize the rollback of the Obama-era Waters of the U.S. rule, which had put new restrictions on which waterways agribusiness could pollute. Early on, Republican opposition to the Green New Deal itself coalesced around the idea that such a program would ban beef production, although supporters have clearly said it would not.
“We call on Congress to put the ‘Green’ in the Green New Deal,” Wednesday’s letter reads, “by empowering us to revitalize the health and economic security of this country’s middle class, to make family farming economically viable again, and to help reverse climate change and improve America’s air and water quality by making our ecosystems healthy again.”