Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore testifies on rise in extreme weather events
WASHINGTON — Democrats are eyeing proposals that would support programs for U.S. farmers—who have suffered catastrophic losses from severe weather events in recent years—to reduce carbon emissions on their land.
In his first major policy hearing as House Agriculture Committee chairman, Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.) said Thursday that the issue of climate change would be key for his panel this year. He wants to encourage farmers to adopt more conservation practices that can mitigate climate change.
“This is perhaps the single most important hearing that we must have right now because agriculture is our single most important industry,” Scott said at the hearing with climate and agriculture experts. “And they, more than any other entity or industry, suffer more and benefit from climate and weather.”
Scott, the first Black chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has identified climate change, racial inequities within the agriculture industry and food insecurity as his top priorities for this year.
Scott called on agricultural producers and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to try to come together to find agreement on the issue—even though climate change has been a divisive issue.
“This is critical. I want us to move forward with this with an open heart and an open mind,” Scott said.
North Carolina’s Rep. Alma Adams echoed the sentiments expressed by Scott. “Climate change is a crisis and we ought to treat it like one. And like this pandemic, the impacts are being felt disproportionately by the most vulnerable,” said the 12th District Democrat.
Greenhouse gas emissions from ag
About 10 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, according to a report from the EPA. Agriculture can also be a source of carbon offsets through soil management, cover crops, conservation projects and forestry.
Recent research suggested that a global effort to replenish soil and remove carbon already in the atmosphere could result in a 10 percent carbon reduction.
Meanwhile, the severe weather events associated with climate change are causing havoc for American farmers.
“Weather is becoming more volatile as the earth warms at an alarming rate and that puts the very people who make a living off the land, American farmers, in the crosshairs of economic peril,” Weather Channel meteorologist Jim Cantore of Atlanta told lawmakers at the hearing.
“Honestly, we simply can’t afford to accept that these events are the norm,” said Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), noting the millions of acres of farmland that had been destroyed in the derecho and flooding events in Iowa in the past two years.
“We have to take action on this climate crisis to reduce our carbon emissions and build up resiliency so our farmers can be successful.”
The hearing comes as the Biden administration considers options to incorporate agriculture in its plans for ”net-zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said he wants to support and create incentives for farmers, ranchers and foresters to use more environmentally friendly practices.
Vilsack said in his confirmation hearing that he would like to build markets to pay farmers to sequester carbon and capture and reuse methane. The Senate voted 92-7 Tuesday to confirm Vilsack as agriculture secretary, and he was sworn in on Wednesday.
Republicans at the hearing said they are open to discussion on climate and agriculture, but insisted that any programs for farmers should be voluntary. Read more