Ag Policy Blog

NFU to President: Stick with Paris Climate Agreement

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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California rancher Dave Roberti installed nearly 2,500 solar panels on 3 acres to power the 6,000-acre ranch’s eight deep-well pumps. (Progressive Farmer image by David Calvert)

The National Farmers Union is urging President Donald Trump not to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement as the farm organization highlighted that work on climate change could help pull the farm economy out of the current price and income slump.

The president isn't exactly embracing an agenda to work on climate change, but National Farmers Union wrote the president a letter asking him to maintain the U.S. commitments made in late 2015 to reduce greenhouse gases. NFU stated the agreement reached by 197 countries is critical "because of the magnitude of threat climate change poses to rural America, and because the contributions these same communities can make to greenhouse-gas emission reductions will drive economic growth in the countryside."

The Trump administration has put in motion a review to revoke the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan meant to target emissions from coal plants. The effort has added another layer to federal court cases over the Clean Power Plan as 17 states have filed a challenge to stop the Trump administration's executive order. https://www.scientificamerican.com/…

Earlier this week, a dispute erupted at a meeting of energy ministers from the seven largest economies of the world, known as the G-7. The Trump administration championed increased use of fossil fuels and nuclear power at the meeting, leading to frustration by the European Union, Japan and Canada over the U.S. stance. Politico reported the U.S. refused to discuss or mention the Paris agreement in a joint statement. "The meeting underscored the increasingly wide gulf between the Trump administration and its allies over climate change. The leaders of the other G-7 nations have all called for a shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy." http://www.politico.com/…

In its letter, NFU notes that rural communities would see economic growth and new jobs from many of the possible actions needed to meet the 2025 U.S. target of reducing emissions 26% to 28% from 2005 emission levels.

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Further, farmers, ranchers and forest owners would benefit from incentives to sequester more carbon in the soil. Such work also could help stem the struggles farmers are facing right now with low commodity prices. NFU noted that low prices and rising input prices are pushing more farmers into a more highly leveraged position. "If a number of these farms fall into bankruptcy or foreclosure, rapid asset devaluation could undermine the entire agricultural economy," NFU wrote to the president. "Ongoing uncertainty regarding biofuels and foreign markets exacerbate this uncertainty. But new revenue streams resulting from such incentives could help by creating new jobs and giving young people another reason to stay on the farm and in small towns."

Biofuels and increased use of biomass for energy offer a growing market for agricultural products and create growth opportunities in rural America. Increased energy efficiency would also help lower energy costs for farmers, NFU added.

Yet, efforts to "decarbonize" the electric grid would be challenging for coal plants and put pressure on power generation in rural America. NFU noted additional support is needed to make the conversion to lower-carbon energy production. Farmers and others need incentives for methane capture, for instance, "but attempts to regulate agricultural methane would be ineffective to administer and counterproductive," NFU stated.

NFU added that "Farmers are on the front lines of climate change. Producers have been experiencing costly disruption from climate change for some time, including more frequent and intense drought, flooding and wildfires. We anticipate that such disruptions will increase in frequency and severity over time. Many of the ways in which rural communities can achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions pursuant to the U.S. Paris commitments will also make farming and ranching operations and rural communities more resilient to the escalating negative consequences of climate change."

NFU's letter didn't directly highlight that the only two laws passed by Congress to reduce emissions -- the 2005 and 2007 energy bills -- led to a boom in the farm economy from 2007 to 2013 because of the Renewable Fuel Standard.

NFU's full letter: http://nfu.org/…

An article in the science news website "The Conversation" last week highlighted some of the same issues raised in NFU's letter to the president. https://phys.org/…

Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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Jay Mcginnis
4/13/2017 | 6:34 AM CDT
The NFU has always made too much sense, like they think farmers should make money like the rest of society?