The Climate Bill Even Big Ag Loves

Even some hardline conservative senators like the Growing Climate Solutions Act. But will it make a dent in emissions?


Tom Philpott, Mother Jones  

Jun 7, 2021


Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) normally doesn’t see climate change as a major societal threat in need of a policy response. A magnet for agribusiness and oil-industry campaign contributions, she pleaded ignorance about climate science at a debate in 2014. She added, “I can’t say one way or another what is the direct impact, whether it’s manmade or not. I’ve heard arguments from both sides.” Yet Ernst has managed to find a piece of climate legislation she likes—one that involves one of her state’s major industries: agriculture.


It’s called the Growing Climate Solutions Act, and Ernst counts among 49 senators on both sides of the partisan divide sponsoring it. Outside supporters include the National Milk Producers Federation, the National Pork Producers Council, and the United States Cattlemen’s Association. The American Farm Bureau Federation, an insurance conglomerate and agribusiness lobbying powerhouse that has long opposed federal regulation to cut greenhouse gas emissions, is pushing it, as is the US Chamber of Commerce, a champion of unfettered oil and natural-gas drilling.


Some Big Green groups back it, too. “Passage of the Growing Climate Solutions Act would be a big win for agriculture, conservation, and the climate,” argued a recent statement from the Nature Conservancy, echoing similar enthusiasm from the Environmental Defense Fund. In late April, the bill sailed through the Senate Agriculture Committee, and likely has the votes to pass the full Senate, although it has yet to be scheduled for a vote.


What policy intervention could magically align these disparate forces behind climate action? And does its broad appeal represent a nascent urge among GOP stalwarts like Ernst and polluting industries like Big Ag to take the challenge seriously?


No doubt, cutting greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and fast, will be vital to fending off the worst ravages of climate change. Farms contribute just 10 percent of total US emissions, but the situation is worse than it looks...


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