“We want to move forward aggressively,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who is the incoming chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. “There are so many issues affecting our food and agriculture system. I am very committed to promoting policies that create jobs and economic opportunities for our farmers, our families, and rural communities,” continued Stabenow during a January 28, 2021, press conference to detail the agenda for the 117th Congress as it relates to the ag committee.
“Of course, we have to continue to focus on responding to COVID-19, address what’s happening in the pandemic, and the effects on farmers, families, and the food supply chain. You know our farmers have faced financial stain from a lot of directions,” she said to a wide ranging group of media.
“The next piece that we are going to focus on relates to new opportunities — economic opportunities and opportunities for agriculture to lead — in the area of the climate crisis,” said the senator who previously chaired the Senate ag committee from 2011 to 2015.
Voluntary would be a foundational principle
“I know that we can provide voluntary producer-led opportunities for our farmers and foresters that will allow them to continue to cut down their emissions and create new sources of income from the adoption of practices that store more carbon in soil and trees,” she said of her vision for agriculture’s role in slowing or even reversing the climate crisis.
“We are going to move forward. There are bills before the committee. The one that creates the structure for doing this and supporting a voluntary-led system is our Growing Climate Solutions Act,” she further explained.
“We did a hearing on that last year. Senator (Mike) Braun (R-Ind.), I, and others are putting this forward as a bipartisan approach to put together a structure and provide the technical expertise to our growers and to our foresters so that they have information they need and the tools that they need to be able to enter the private carbon markets,” Stabenow said.
Farm bill talks to begin
“Finally, it’s hard for me to believe that we are already having to talk about another farm bill. The farm bill needs to be passed in 2023, and it takes a lot of effort,” said the 20-year senate veteran. “We are going to be using time now to get input on what has worked, not worked, and how we can make things better in the next round.
“What we do in the farm bill to protect land and water is critical,” she said, relating the farm bill back to addressing the climate crisis. “It also relates back to the tools farmers have and will need in a climate crisis.”
When asked about unfinished business from the last farm bill, the climate again came to the forefront, during question and answers from the media.
“For me, it’s more about moving forward in the area of support for carbon sequestration policy. We did a soil health demonstration project that producers really brought forward,” she said.
“I’d like to expand that. We want to expand a number of things that we have done as pilot conservation and innovation grants, that are basically small efforts to work with farmers, again to create the carbon sequestration policies to measure carbon. They are all pilots; assuming they have been effective, and so far, what we have seen has been very effective. It’s more about robustly ramping up the support in those areas that will allow farmers, frankly, to lead in the area of carbon pollution and the climate crisis, and do it in a way that creates a new commodity for them.
“This is a win-win. I am anxious to have this move as much as possible and very pleased that we have over 50 organizations supporting Senator Braun and my bill, the Growing Climate Solutions Act,” she went on to say. “Those same organizations have now formed their own organization to advocate around these issues and policies. They made recommendations in a report that we want to include as well. There is great movement in this area,” she concluded.
One such organization is the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. Visit their website to learn more.