Arizona Farm Bureau (AZFB) President Stefanie Smallhouse recently testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry on the agriculture, food and forestry sector’s role in delivering climate solutions. She was part of a group representing the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance’s (FACA) founding organizations and co-chairs – American Farm Bureau Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and National Farmers Union, a diverse and growing alliance, focused on sensible solutions to climate challenges. Their testimonies took place late last week.
“We've reduced carbon emissions in the beef industry by 30% since the 1970s,” said AZFB President Smallhouse during her testimony. “We should be rewarded for that and American consumers should feel happy about eating beef and other livestock products produced in the U.S. knowing we've done so much work to decrease our carbon footprint."
Smallhouse and the other testimonies stressed how farmers, ranchers and forest owners are both on the frontlines of climate impacts and offer innovative, natural solutions through increased carbon sequestration in trees and soils and reduced GHG emissions.
In response to a question posed by Senator Thune of South Dakota, Smallhouse said, "Shifting Livestock production to other countries makes no sense. America's producers are the most efficient. We produce 18% of the beef [globally] with 6% of the herd. Beef is an affordable, easily accessible source of nutritious, high protein. And these improved feed and breeding practices have happened over recent decades as we’ve advanced our livestock handling practices."
In accordance with FACA’s guiding principles, the four representatives testifying stressed to lawmakers that federal climate policy must be built upon voluntary, incentive-based programs and market-driven opportunities, promote resilience and adaptation in rural communities and be grounded in scientific evidence. In addition, solutions proposed by Congress and the Biden administration must be strongly bipartisan and accommodate the diverse needs of producers and landowners, regardless of size, geographic region, or commodity.
On the scientific evidence side, Smallhouse stated, "In order to develop innovative technologies to capture more carbon in our croplands, forests, and grasslands, we need increased investment in agriculture research aimed at developing innovative solutions that can be efficiently utilized."Smallhouse also stressed the need for the planning and funding of water infrastructure in the West to offset the severe drought conditions which threaten the sustainability of farmers along the Colorado River system.
“Throughout my lifetime of farming, I constantly have sought out ways to reduce my environmental impact — it is good for the environment, it is good for my farm and it is the right thing to do. I believe the timing is right for all industries, including agriculture, to come together and find solutions that will sustain our way of life for generations to come,” said John Reifsteck, an Illinois grain farmer and the chairman of GROWMARK Inc. testifying on behalf of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).
National Farmers Union (NFU) member Clay Pope said, “FACA sets a new, higher floor for federal policy discussions around agriculture and climate change, and gives clear, farmer-backed direction to policymakers.” The sixth-generation farmer and rancher from Loyal, Oklahoma, added that “Congress must heed these recommendations and quickly act upon them. America’s family farmers and ranchers are already feeling the effects of climate change on their land — there is no time to waste.”
“Policy which addresses proactive measures to influence climate conditions cannot be one-size-fits-all,” added Smallhouse. “Just as I have highlighted the unique needs of Arizona’s farmers and ranchers in the West, all regions of the U.S. can explain ways in which any given climate policy may or may not work for the landscape, industry and ecology present in that region.”
“The potential for farmers, ranchers and forestland owners to contribute to the climate change solution is well-documented. My family has seen it in our operation and see opportunities for it to happen on a far larger scale,” said Cori Wittman Stitt, a member of Environmental Defense Fund’s farmer advisory group and a partner in a diversified crop, cattle and timber operation in northern Idaho. “Farmers need Congress to act quickly to advance voluntary policies that maximize measurable net carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas reductions while increasing the resilience of the land.”
FACA members developed more than 40 joint recommendations to guide the development of federal climate policy. Download the recommendations and see a full list of member organizations at agclimatealliance.com.