By Dave Russell and Matt Reese
The climate is changing and it is evident on farms in Ohio and the streets of Washington, D.C. The political discussions on this hot topic continue in the halls of Congress and on this year’s 74th Ohio Farm Bureau County Presidents’ Trip to Washington, D.C.
“There is renewed focus in Congress on the issue of climate,” said Andrew Walmsley, director of congressional relations for American Farm Bureau. “There is a recognition that at some point, either this Congress, next Congress or three congresses down the road, something is going to happen with climate change in Congress and we need to be involved.”
With that in mind, American Farm Bureau teamed up with a broad collation of agricultural organizations to tell the story of food production and climate.
“Farmers for a Sustainable Future is a fairly new group here in Washington, D.C. to come around the table and discuss the issues of sustainability and climate and really try to stake out a place in these discussions for agriculture to play a role,” Walmsley said. “It is geared towards the folks on Capitol Hill and we decided this needs to have a more public face and in mid-February we launched our website, had a press roll out and put out material for our members tell this narrative off of Capitol Hill too.”
In total, 21 farm and ranch groups representing millions of U.S. farmers and ranchers are included in Farmers for a Sustainable Future (FSF). This coalition will serve as a primary resource for lawmakers and policymakers as they consider climate policies. As policy proposals are developed and considered moving forward, the goal is for the coalition and its guiding principles to serve as a foundation to ensure the adoption of meaningful and constructive policies and affecting climate and agriculture.
“We started asking about the numbers in U.S. agriculture. We hear about greenhouse gas emissions and that agriculture contributes close to 25%. When you look at U.S. agriculture, that is not quite true. We’re actually less than 10%. We believe one of the reasons for that is our huge increase in output. In two generations we’ve increased output by 270%,” Walmsley said. “We’re doing more with either the same or less in some cases. We think that is a pretty incredible story. As an industry, with no mandate, we have voluntarily — through genetics, efficiency gains, and new technology — produced a whole lot more with a whole lot less.”
In addition, the resources of FSF are designed to provide farmers with science-based climate information to share with friends, neighbors and their elected officials.
“Our famers do talk about these issues. They do not use the same language you see in the media, but they are deeply concerned about being good stewards, reducing their inputs and figuring out how to be sustainable to pass the farm on to the next generation,” Walmsley said. “Politics is a full contact sport. You have to be involved. Part of the reason we put this together was to bolster our members’ ability to talk about the data. At the end of the day what matters is trust. Farmers tend to be credible and trusted sources. It is important to tell the story of what they are doing on the farm and when you add that all together it is a pretty remarkable story of what agriculture has been able to achieve.”
FSF members include American Farm Bureau Federation, American Pulse Association, American Sugar Alliance, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Barley Growers Association, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council of America, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Sorghum Producers, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Sunflower Association, Southern Peanut Farmers Association, United Egg Producers, U.S. Canola Association, U.S. Dry Bean Council, USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, USA Rice.
More about the coalition members, guiding principles and sustainability achievements can be found at www.SustainableFarming.us.