Today, 19 members of the California Roundtable on Agriculture and the Environment (CRAE), a coalition of agriculture, environment and labor leaders in California, have agreed on a set of guiding principles for engaging the agricultural sector in a national program to reduce global warming pollution, should Congress adopt a national climate policy. The principles were addressed to key state legislators and lawmakers on Capitol Hill along with a letter highlighting the critical role the agricultural community plays in environmental stewardship. The coalition also urged Congressional leaders to support increased R&D funding, technical assistance, conservation programs, and cooperative extension efforts that would help agricultural producers adopt climateâfriendly practices and increase their ability to adapt to climate change.
While some of the agricultural signatories have indicated that they may still oppose a climate bill, it is significant that such diverse organizations were able to find agreement on what such a policy should include, were it to pass. The impressive list of coalition members includes diverse organizations such as The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, California Farm Bureau, California Rice Commission, California Cattleman’s Association, and American Farmland Trust. The letter states:
“While our diverse organizations may have differing priorities and positions on many policy aspects surrounding this issue, we have found consensus around a common set of principles for guiding a national climate policy discussion that provides agriculture with a fair and meaningful role.”
The six principles focus on rewarding farmers and ranchers on the basis of performance in delivering real reductions in global warming pollution. They call for setting strong offset quality criteria to ensure that agricultural offsets represent reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that are measurable, verifiable, permanent, and above and beyond what would happen under “business as usual.” NRDC continues to seek these criteria in a comprehensive clean energy and climate bill (see my post here on ensuring the quality of domestic offsets in the House-passed American Clean Energy and Security Act and my colleague’s post here on ensuring that a domestic offsets program preserves the integrity of the emissions cap in the Senate’s American Power Act). The principles also address the importance of developing offset regulations using the best available science, supporting ag-sector innovation, establishing strong roles for both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency in program development, prioritizing on-farm practices that deliver multiple environmental benefits, and putting in place safeguards to protect against negative impacts on public health and the environment.
America’s farmers are on the front lines of climate change, facing increased damages from more frequent and severe droughts, changes in water supply, and extreme weather events. The U.S. agricultural community therefore has a big stake in whether Congress takes strong, immediate action to curb global warming pollution, and American farmers have an important role to play in helping to achieve our emission reduction goals. As the Senate works to pass its version of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation, lawmakers in Washington can learn from the agreement on policy principles forged by California’s agricultural and environmental leaders.