The National Family Farm Coalition is pleased to support the Climate Stewardship Act introduced this spring by Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and by Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA). Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has collaborated with Senator Booker on several pieces of farmer-friendly legislation, co-sponsored the bill (S. 1072).
In the spirit of FDR’s New Deal, the bill would revive the Civilian Conservation Corps to reforest rural and expand urban treescapes with billions of trees, restore two million acres of coastal wetlands, and invest in renewable energy for farmers and rural small businesses. S. 1072 also promotes a wide range of conservation practices, including compost application, cover cropping, hedgerow planting, nutrient management, prescribed grazing, zero and reduced tilling, wetland restoration, and range planting. Not mentioned in the bill, unfortunately, are strategies for managing the supply of commodity crops and policies to ensure living wages for food providers so that they can use their resources and expertise most effectively.
To learn more about the role supply management can play in climate stewardship, we invite you to watch these short videos produced by ActionAid USA in collaboration with NFFC, our membership, and other allies. The videos feature NFFC farmers, fishers, and allies explaining the benefits of a food-farm-fishery system in which the supply of commodity crops does not exceed demand:
A well managed supply means devoting less land and water to commodity crops, setting aside marginal lands for wildlife habitat and flood control, planting cover crops to improve land, water, and soil health, and employing other practices recommended by USDA conservation programs. Paying fair parity prices to producers would encourage them to enroll in these programs, diversify their operations, and take the time and effort needed to raise crops and livestock agroecologically. Furthermore, paying living wages through parity pricing ensures that food providers can focus attention on their operations rather than take off-farm or off-boat jobs to keep those operations afloat.
Conservation programs have long been an important component of parity and supply management in the U.S., but family farmers and ranchers have also recognized a changing climate for decades. Extreme variations in rainfall, temperatures, storm intensity, soil health, invasive pests, crop varieties, and fish populations have forced producers to employ innovative practices to enhance their resilience and adapt to this new reality. If food providers knew that they wouldn’t lose money employing new practices, there’s no doubt that more would be willing to participate in conservation programs.
The Climate Stewardship Act is an important first step in addressing the climate crisis. However, it must be paired with policy changes that build the socio-economic resilience of family-scale farmers, ranchers, and fishers and their workers. The Act would benefit them, consumers, and society even more by incorporating our recommendations to transform the food system from Disparity to Parity.