US NFU calls on government to prioritize climate change across all its ag programs


The Cattle Site

03 May 2021


Farming and agriculture can help combat climate change, but farmers need the USDA to support and fully realize this potential.


In comments submitted on 29 April, the family farm organization outlined ways UDSA could better “encourage the development, adoption, and equitable delivery of climate smart practices.” While the agency already has a suite of programs that can achieve this goal, they are falling short in some respects.


For one, many programs do not currently prioritize climate in their criteria, making it difficult for farmers to use them to meet climate goals on their operations. As a remedy, NFU President Rob Larew encouraged USDA to “publicly state that climate change is an urgent priority. . .and ensure programs reflect this prioritization.” Additionally, it should give precedence to applications that result in “positive soil health, carbon sequestration, and resilience outcomes in line with local climate change resource concerns.”


The omission of climate mitigation and adaptation is not the only shortcoming; a lack of staff also limits the efficacy of farm programs. “One Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) employee may be tasked with serving scores, if not hundreds of farmers across a large geographical region,” Larew said. “With no one. . .to provide trusted information, farmers often do not know how they should move forward.” To ensure access to adequate technical assistance, USDA should substantially increase NRCS staffing levels and provide robust training specific to regional soil types, production and cropping systems, livestock, and weather conditions.


While it’s important to strengthen existing USDA programs, “the scale of the climate crisis and the costs of combating it is too large for these efforts alone to resolve.” To complement its activities, the agency should expand its focus to local governments and the private sector...