To address climate change, we’ve got to end chemical-intensive agriculture. Why?
Because globally, today’s food and agriculture systems are responsible for more climate-change contributing emissions than the world’s cars, trucks, planes, and trains combined. At the same time, we’re confronted with evidence that climate change is unravelling the systems of the natural world that have evolved over millennia to create a habitable planet.
The Green New Deal, a non-binding resolution that calls for a shift in energy production and public resources to carbon-neutralize the U.S. by 2030, highlights “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agriculture sector.” This is a good idea.
Agriculture & the Climate Crisis
Here at PAN, we support a just transition to food and agriculture systems that put power back in the hands of the farmers, workers, and communities growing food—and the Green New Deal is one way to help us accomplish this.
Much of agriculture’s contribution to climate change is from chemical intensive farming’s reliance on fossil fuel-based inputs. Deforestation and conversion of grassland to commodity crop production reduces acres of diverse, carbon-sequestering ecosystems globally, and reliance on petrochemical inputs for monocrop production is on the rise. This includes synthetic nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides derived from petroleum-based hydrocarbons.
With a changing climate, scientists predict increased stress for farmers in the form of resilient pests and hardy weeds — in addition to facing the impacts of climate chaos like droughts, fires and floods. Relying on an outdated, petro-chemical based system to combat pest and weed pressure won’t address the problem—it will worsen it. Especially as three chemical companies now control the majority of the global seed market.
This leaves farmers with fewer, more expensive options as profits leave the farm, collecting in corporate boardrooms instead. Something’s got to change.
A Just Transition
The fact is, without a transition to agroecological farming, the pesticide treadmill (fueled by weed and insect resistance) could kick into overdrive as farmers attempt to manage pests in a changing climate—further contributing to climate change. Continued reliance on chemical-intensive agriculture would not only exacerbate the climate crisis—but risks the health of our environments, farms and farmers, workers and communities.
So how do we work collaboratively with farmers to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions as the Green New Deal suggests?
We must ensure that any future binding law-making centers the solutions posed by farmers, workers, and their communities:
When we think about solutions to climate change, sometimes it seems like a narrow vision. But policies like those outlined in the Green New Deal resolution could bring it all together—let’s talk about jobs for all, parity pricing for farmers, planning and organizing of agricultural production, allocation of resources in an environmentally sound and just way. And we can’t just rely on politicians; we’ve got to utilize the conversation around the Green New Deal to articulate the future we want, and demand the binding policies that will help get us there.
-Patti and George Naylor, Iowa Farmers
The fact is, people across the U.S. have been calling for just food and agriculture systems that work with and for our environments and communities for decades. From Indigenous communities advocating for land and tribal sovereignty to protect traditional agricultural practices, to family farmers calling for parity pricing and supply management to enable farmers to make a living wage, to farmworkers in Bellingham, Washington forming a worker-owned sustainable berry farm cooperative —the solutions are right in front of us.
We will continue to support and advocate for the solutions that are already working for those most impacted by chemical-intensive agriculture—and we’re hopeful the Green New Deal can be a powerful tool in the toolbox as we work toward a climate-just future.