Many people are physically and emotionally feeling the brunt of climate change right now. Natural disasters have recently taken lives and homes across a broad swath of the country. Deadly floods swept through Kentucky, Virginia and Missouri, wiping out entire neighborhoods and killing 37 in southeast Kentucky, with hundreds more still missing. At least four people were killed in a wildfire in Northern California covering nearly 60,000 acres. It’s just one of several fires threatening thousands of homes in the western United States. Hot weather, wind gusts and lightning storms could further increase the size and force of the fires.
This year, Farm Aid is focusing our festival spotlight on climate change—both the ways that farmers are impacted by it and the ways in which they can impact it in positive ways, to help sequester carbon and decrease greenhouse gas emissions. We say that farmers are on the frontlines of climate change, feeling the impacts firsthand on their own farms. The operators on the Farm Aid hotline can attest to that. They’re hearing from many farmers suffering from extreme weather conditions, from extreme heat and drought, to mid-summer hail storms and too much rain. Across New England, a drought is starting to weigh, emotionally and financially, on farmers. In the span of one year, the Pacific Northwest has experienced 100-year floods, the coldest spring on record, and record-breaking heat. A farmer in Texas recently noted on her social media that it was “the 55th day at or above 100 degrees since May 21st.”
We can’t expect farmers to shoulder all of the work to strengthen our climate on their own.
In 2021, the United States experienced 20 climate-related disasters that each caused more than $1 billion in damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There were about six such disasters per year in the 1990s. While establishing a direct causal link between an individual weather event and climate change is challenging, scientists agree that climate change is making extreme weather more frequent and intense.
Thankfully this week there is good news. Tomorrow the Senate will vote on a budget bill that contains hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits and grants for the transition to climate-resilient agriculture, solar and wind power, electric vehicles, efficient home heating, and more. The package—which started out as the Green New Deal, became a less-ambitious Build Back Better bill, and now has become an even-more-scaled-back Inflation Reduction Act—has had a long road. If passed, it will be the largest and most ambitious investment the U.S. has ever made in climate mitigation. Analysts say that it would cut emissions to forty per cent below 2005 levels by the end of the decade.
What’s in the bill for farmers?
For agriculture, the Inflation Reduction Act calls for increased funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, for farmer technical assistance, and for rural energy programs. Each of these funding increases includes specific language prioritizing farming practices that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and improve soil health, thereby increasing climate resilience for farmers—and all of us.
This support is critical! Farmers have tremendous capacity to not just reduce the emissions produced by our farm and food system, but also to sequester carbon in the soil through their farming practices. But we can’t expect them to shoulder all that work to strengthen our climate on their own. It is essential that farmers receive support to implement these practices on their farms to lead us to a climate solution.
To raise your voice in support of climate-resilient agriculture, call your representative today to ask them to support the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022! Our climate—and our future—depends on it!