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Sixth Installment of Jay Inslee's Climate Plan Champions Regenerative Farming and Massive Investment in Rural America

While applauding much of the presidential candidate's proposal, Friends of the Earth warned "it doesn't do enough to stop concentrated corporate monopolies in the food and agriculture sector."

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, participated in a panel discussion about the U.S. Climate Alliance during the United Nation's Climate Change Conference's 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany. (Photo: International Institute for Sustainable Development/Jay Inslee/Flickr/cc)

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who has based his campaign for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination on battling the climate crisis, released a new plan Wednesday that promotes regenerative agriculture and federal investment in rural communities.

"My Growing Rural Prosperity plan will reinvigorate America's rural and farming communities, while empowering farmers to benefit from enormous economic opportunities as we build America's clean economy and work to defeat climate change," Inslee said in a statement to The Hill.

The proposal is the sixth and final piece of his Climate Mission agenda, which also includes a 100% Clean Energy for America plan, Evergreen Economy plan, Global Climate Mobilization plan, Freedom from Fossil Fuels plan, and Community Climate Justice plan.

"Inslee's climate plan now stands at 213-pages of specific policies built on state and local successes," according to Jared Leopold, a senior adviser for his campaign.

Inslee presents the newest plan as a solution to the "triple threat" currently faced by agricultural communities: "an erratic Trump administration that's harder to predict than the weather," decades of failing to adequately invest in rural infrastructure or prioritize family farms over large corporations, and the growing climate emergency. The proposal features 15 policy initiatives and four broad strategies:

  • Investing in agricultural innovations to defeat climate change;
  • Keeping farmers farming;
  • Investing in rural prosperity and advancing equity; and
  • Improving forest health and protecting America's public lands.

As part of the first strategy, an Inlsee administration would "launch a new Carbon Farming initiative to reward farmers for the environmental services they provide by removing carbon emissions from the atmosphere to build healthier soils, and by capturing methane," according to his campaign. Inslee would also "triple funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) to $3 billion annually, reform crop insurance, and expand other U.S. Department of Agriculture programs to promote climate-smart agriculture."

In his mission to aid American farmers, Inlsee vows to reverse the Trump administration's "chaotic trade policies" and "take aggressive anti-trust action—through existing and expanded authorities at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ)—against agribusinesses that are undermining small and family farms."

The plan calls for the creation of "a Next-Generation Rural Electrification initiative to revitalize rural economies through bottom-up strategies for renewable energy, efficiency, and transmission deployment" as well as "massive new investments in rural broadband connectivity."

The candidate also promises that, if elected, his administration would "incentivize and reward landowners for forest-based carbon removal, and launch a major reinvestment in the U.S. Forest Service to repair and sustain the health of federal forest lands." Additionally, he would "restore and enhance protections for America's public lands."

Inslee, who scored the top spot on Greenpeace's ranking of the Democratic presidential contenders' climate plans earlier this year, released his new proposal less than two weeks after the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) put out a report that underscored the importance of rapidly pursuing more sustainable land practices to battle global hunger and rein in planet-warming emissions.

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Daniel Kammen—a professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley and a former science envoy for the U.S. State Department who has contributed to IPCC reports since 1999—took to Twitter Wednesday to praise Inslee's plan as "exciting, integrated, pro-farmer, and climate smart."

"We are pleased to see Gov. Inslee recognize the connection between climate change and agriculture, and lay out specific policies to transform our food system," Tiffany Finck-Haynes, pesticides and pollinators program manager at Friends of the Earth Action, said in a statement.

"Gov. Inslee's plan to reduce the use of pesticides and fertilizers, protect pollinators, and sequester carbon in soil will help stop the climate crisis and protect people and the planet," she said. "Gov. Inslee is correct that we need to support new, beginning, and historically disadvantaged farmers, and protect the health and expand the rights of farmworkers.

Alongside her applause for the plan, Finck-Haynes highlighted some areas where the presidential candidate could go further.

"While his plan recognizes the need for stronger antitrust enforcement, it doesn't do enough to stop concentrated corporate monopolies in the food and agriculture sector," she added. "We urge Gov. Inslee to support a moratorium on mega mergers in the agriculture sector and break up existing Big Ag monopolies."

Friends of the Earth is part of the coalition of groups that delivered to Congress last month a petition, signed by more than 100,000 people, demanding the inclusion of systemic food and agricultural reforms in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey's (D-Mass.) Green New Deal, an ambitious resolution that aims to tackle the climate crisis.

Kelsey Kruger of the Center for Food Safety, which was also part of the coalition behind the petition, wrote for Common Dreams last month that "a unique opportunity to address climate change can be found in our agriculture sector—an area which must be made sustainable if we're going to survive."

"Climate scientists have identified agriculture as one of the largest contributors to climate change," Kruger continued. "This an opportunity to shift agricultural practices away from the large scale, conventional farms that currently dominate our food system to a regenerative, locally-focused, small-scale system that values the welfare of the land and those who work it."

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