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Coalition mobilizes to protect climate-friendly farming

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by Margaret Reeves

With tobacco, lead and alcohol we ultimately acted with precaution when the science on human health effects raised red flags – and we’ve saved millions of lives.

So what do you call it—wise, fiscally responsible, necessary?— when we act to promote farm practices that protect the natural resources that allow us to produce abundant, healthy food, even though the science on just how this is accomplished is not yet complete? Organic or ecological agriculture promises to do this and more. It also helps maintain vibrant rural economies and save lives by providing nutrient-rich food and eliminating the use of highly hazardous pesticides. Scientists now know that it can also help mitigate climate change.

Unfortunately, the bulk of U.S. agricultural policies continue to promote extractive, exploitative practices that exacerbate climate change instead. But there are some great rays of hope—in policy and in practice. We need to highlight, promote, and protect these initiatives, many of which are under attack in the flurry of budget cutting proposals now being rushed through Congress.

Supporting science that supports solutions

A recent AP article celebrated climate-friendly innovations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It hailed NRCS for “using science to help private landowners conserve all natural resources, not just soil, and prepare for challenges including climate change." The article highlighted progress in selecting crop varieties to better adapt to climate change, and called for more NRCS staff on the ground to assist growers implementing conservation practices.

This is all good, but what’s new and exciting isn’t the USDA position itself (see the agency’s Climate Change Science Plan from back in 2001). Rather, that there's an AP article about it; public recognition of conservation programs that are working is long overdue.

Another key USDA program supporting conservation practices is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which was expanded in 2008 to provide help to organic and transitioning growers working to adopt conservation practices consistent with National Organic Program requirements.

Programs that help farmers & climate under attack

These and other conservation programs need our help NOW. They are currently under direct attack in Congress, as policymakers rush to slash budgets.

Please join PAN and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition today, as we urge Congress to oppose reckless spending cuts that threaten sustainable agriculture and economic recovery in rural communities throughout the country — while leaving commodity and crop insurance subsidies completely untouched. 

For years we've struggled to achieve a fair share of federal farm spending for programs that help farmers steward the land; this is policy that makes sense. The proposed cuts set back our progress by decades. Please add your voice to this national effort to protect conservation programs that work. Call your Senators today.

Margaret Reeves's blog

is PAN's Senior Scientist. Follow @MargaretatPAN

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