How the Farm Bill 2023 can help solve climate change
by Naomi Yossef
During a listening session held on July 31, Maine residents raised questions and concerns to Rep. Chellie Pingree and her Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson regarding the introduction in the United States Congress of the latest five-year Farm Bill, with one key point being how this legislation could combat climate change. The Farm Bill is a wide-ranging bill, renewed by Congress every five years, that covers a multitude of policies and funds numerous programs. Citizens interested in making public comments on the latest Farm Bill, set to be reauthorized in 2023, were able to register to speak prior to the listening session. Anyone unable to speak during the session and anyone who wants to share additional information with her office can send a message to the email address Erin.Wilson@mail.house.gov.
Among the inquiries pursued at the listening session, some asked why existing, proven methods of climate change mitigation are not being implemented in this Farm Bill. One of the potential examples highlighted in the article by John Fitzgerald “Maine Voices: How the Farm Bill can help solve climate change” is carbon sequestration via remineralization.
“We could pay farmers to sequester more carbon dioxide, just as we pay oil companies to do it via tax credits. Farmers could be paid to sequester CO2 in woodlots or remineralize and enhance their fields with rock dust or biochar. The nonprofit Remineralize the Earth, based in western Massachusetts, is running programs all over the world demonstrating those win-win solutions.”
RTE is singled out for its remineralization efforts that use rock dust and biochar on agricultural fields, instead of nitrogen fertilizers made from natural gas, to enhance these fields. The production and transportation of natural gas for synthetic fertilizers releases substantial amounts of methane, the second largest contributor to global warming, which further exacerbates environmental degradation. RTE has used its alternative approach in various of its programs worldwide, demonstrating that it can serve as a beneficial solution for farmers and the environment. Such an approach could be included in the Farm Bill, requiring the transition to soil enrichment and similar practices that are not as heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
Another suggestion is to require companies or farms that benefit from subsidies or price supports from the Inflation Reduction Act to use this assistance to lower greenhouse gasses. Alternatively, based on the greenhouse gasses such companies and farms are unable to eliminate, Congress could require paying a fee that would fund projects to prevent the emission of greenhouse gasses at the source and remove them from the atmosphere.
Due to the destructive impact farming has on the environment and its contribution to climate change, various sustainable approaches were suggested in an effort to address environmental degradation from this. The Farm Bill could include: paying farmers to sequester more CO2; requiring food markets to partner with charities and/or public institutions to redistribute foods that have passed the ‘best by’ date despite being still edible; using climate-safer refrigerants to quickly transport foods from fields to supermarkets; and, imposing tariffs to fund low-interest loans for deep net negative GHG removal. The Farm Bill will be an important factor in the next five years of American agriculture, and it could help pave the way for a better future.
Naomi Yossef completed her MSc in Environmental Policy and Management. Growing up in Ghana, Naomi witnessed the exacerbation of socioeconomic issues due to the lack of prioritizing environmental issues. This shaped her academic and professional career to center on sustainability, with a focus on advocating for sustainable development and solutions in African countries. Naomi has been based in Ethiopia since 2020, where she has been supporting various projects that promote sustainable development and environmental education. Naomi volunteers at RTE to provide a sustainable solution to combat climate change, and is especially keen to support the Kilimanjaro project based in Tanzania.