In Washington, there is a renewed focus on climate change and a desire from House Democrats and the Biden Administration to pass radical, sweeping legislation to address it. These conversations have, for the most part, failed to include the original stewards of the land our nation’s farmers.
America’s farmers have been dedicated to preserving our natural resources since the foundation of our great country, and they have an important perspective on climate change that Congress, and the President, must consider.
The district I am honored to represent in Upstate New York is home to a vibrant agricultural industry and millions of acres of precious natural resources. As a result, farmers in our region are laser focused on the balance of producing abundant food for their communities while protecting our land, water, and air for generations to come.
Family farms have been utilizing carbon sequestration, recycling water, digesting methane, and repurposing waste for years. They have been responsibly replenishing the soil, controlling runoff into waterways, and developing best practices and technologies that have made food production more efficient and sustainable than ever before. The carbon footprint of a glass of milk, for example, is two-thirds less than it was 70 years ago. When productivity goes up, emissions go down.
The demonstrated progress in the agriculture sector shows how serious farmers are about environmental stewardship, as changes in climate patterns affect their livelihoods arguably more than anyone else. Agriculture is one of two sectors (along with forestry) that can remove greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. Farmers have been doing this right for decades, and we need to support their efforts with smart policies and targeted funding, instead of seeking to eliminate them.
As part of my commitment to supporting farmers and addressing climate change, I am an original cosponsor of the Growing Climate Solutions Act. This bipartisan legislation enables farmers to participate in carbon credit markets and establishes a program at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to oversee third party verifiers and help landowners generate carbon credits through multiple agricultural practices. The bill engages the private sector and connects landowners with the resources they need to further utilize carbon capturing and emissions reduction technologies. This is just one example of how government agencies can empower farmers to utilize climate-smart practices while also engaging the private sector.
Agriculture holds the potential to be a critical part of the climate solution, and in crafting policy, we must include those who have their boots on the ground. We need to pass commonsense legislation that enables farmers to do their jobs more efficiently, and we need to reject efforts that seek to eliminate livestock farming. Instead of biting the hands that feed us, we must supply those hands with tools to be increasingly productive and sustainable.
As our population continues to grow, we will need more food to feed our people coming from finite resources. Farmers have seen these trends and adjusted accordingly for decades, and it is beyond time that our policies reflect their dedication to the environment - and empower them in the future.
• U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik, New York Republican, represents the 21st Congressional District in the House where she focuses on pursuing energy policies that help North Country families, businesses, and farms. She serves as the Ranking Member on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems, and is a member of the Education and Labor Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.