Senate ag hearing on climate change

March 18, 2021

Last week, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry held a hearing regarding climate change and its impacts on the agriculture sector. Many Committee members were concerned about climate change and discussed how to implement sustainable practices while also incentivizing farmers and foresters. Questions were asked on a variety of topics including the use of carbon markets, clean energy, data-driven research, and finding solutions for the many different sectors in agriculture. Witnesses included Clay Pope, farmer and National Farmers Union member; Mark Isbell, farmer and USA Rice member; John Reifsteck – Chairman of GROWMARK cooperative and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; Stefanie Smallhouse, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation President; and Cori Wittman Stitt, Farmer Advisor at the Environmental Defense Fund.

During the hearing, Senator Debra Fischer (R-NE) asked how other industries such as livestock operations were valuing farms lowering emissions beyond using carbon sequestration. Smallhouse discussed how some farms are partnering livestock feed with ranching operations and emphasized the need for efficiency. Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) asked how Congress should make sure that the climate programs created and implemented are “farmer-friendly.” Each witness agreed that voluntary, market-based programs are important to ensuring farmers’ participation in these programs. Every witness also highlighted the importance of bringing farmers to discussions and using their input to craft and implement the policies.

Additionally, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) discussed the 2018 Farm Bill and asked how conservation titles can do more to tackle the climate crisis. Pope stated more resources need to go to local staff so that farmers can get hands-on help in implementing programs. He also mentioned how critical it is to fully fund programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).