A coalition of nearly 10,000 farmers and ranchers on Wednesday demanded that Congress support the Green New Deal.
At a press conference on Capitol Hill and in a letter to lawmakers, farmers and ranchers from across the country said reducing fossil fuel emissions to net zero by 2030 is needed to sustain their livelihood and is achievable—but only with congressional support for large-scale reforms to the agricultural industry.
"Farmers are our allies in the fight against climate change. For them, change is already at their door, and they're feeling the effects."
—Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine)
"We stand ready to help achieve all of these [Green New Deal] goals," wrote the coalition, led by the Sunrise Movement and Regeneration International. "But we need Congress to work with us to develop food and agriculture policies that support climate-friendly organic and regenerative farming, ranching, and land-use practices."
Washington must shift its attention from the consolidated corporate agribusiness sector back to small family farms, the coalition said.
"We also ask that Congress stop subsidizing monopolistic, extractive industrial agriculture practices that pollute the environment, produce unhealthy food, and disproportionately devastate rural communities and economies," reads the letter.
Watch the press conference:
Farmers and ranchers are major contributors to Republican candidates. A 2016 survey by Iowa State University found that only 40 percent of farmers agree with the scientific consensus that human activity like fossil fuel extraction is causing the climate crisis.
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But the coalition made clear that many in the agricultural sector feel far more threatened by extreme weather caused by the crisis and economic policies promoted by Republicans like President Donald Trump than by proposals to reduce carbon emissions.
"My grandmother lost her sense of purpose after my family sold the dairy cows because growing corporate consolidation of the industry made it unprofitable," said Garrett Blad, national press coordinator for the Sunrise Movement. "I feel disheartened when I see my uncles stress about historic rains delaying planting season, or how Trump's tariffs are throwing my family's business into jeopardy. I'll be damned if I let global warming take the rest of what my grandparents built."
"With a Green New Deal, we have a historic opportunity to break corporate control of farming, invest in rural America, and stand behind the hard-working people who grow our food every day," he added.
The Green New Deal calls on lawmakers to work alongside farmers and ranchers to remove pollution from the agricultural sector—which creates about 13 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions—by supporting family farming rather than subsidizing corporate factory farms and investing in sustainable farming.
Moving to net zero carbon emissions by 2030 is achievable, the coalition wrote, but only with a rapid shift to a renewable energy economy and large-scale reforms to farming systems, such as a shift to regenerative agriculture—farming practices including no-till farming and composting, which increase biodiversity and enhance ecosystems by capturing carbon in soil and foliage.
"New agricultural policies could provide greater support for practices such as cover cropping, rotational grazing, agroforestry, and silvopasture," the coalition wrote. "These practices are proven to restore ecosystem health, including the soil's potential to sequester carbon. Policies that support better farming and ranching practices would make our farming businesses less vulnerable to the impact of climate change and more financially resilient."
The letter comes two days before the global climate strike and days after major players in the labor movement—also often thought to oppose climate action—urged workers to support the walkout and the week of action that will follow.
"Farmers are our allies in the fight against climate change. For them, change is already at their door, and they're feeling the effects," said Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) in a statement. "Farmers and ranchers have a critical role to play in mitigating the devastating effects of greenhouse gas emissions. As this Congress prioritizes bold solutions to the climate crisis change, we must remember to bring farmers to the table."