In advance of a Senate Agriculture committee hearing on Thursday titled “Farmers and Foresters: Opportunities to Lead in Tackling Climate Change,” a coalition of groups sent a letter to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) voicing opposition to the inclusion of carbon offsets and factory farm gas (so-called biogas) schemes in upcoming agriculture legislation.
The Thursday hearing will focus on offsets and factory farm gas schemes as a means for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
But as over 200 organizations detailed in a letter last fall, these offset programs are ineffective at reducing emissions, especially when fossil fuel polluters can snatch up credits instead of reducing their own emissions. These offsets markets increase harmful air pollution in environmental justice communities, and undermine efforts to build a healthy, sustainable, and resilient food system.
“The misguided Growing Climate Solutions Act will allow corporations to indulge in more fracking and other forms of fossil fuel pollution, while creating a stream of bogus carbon reduction ‘credits’ that will benefit industrial agriculture and factory farming,” said Mitch Jones, Policy Director of Food & Water Watch. “Rather than promoting feel good policies that perpetuate the status quo, we need bold action that will create real climate solutions that promote sustainable agriculture and an end to fossil fuels.”
“Public policy shouldn’t prop up a risky pollution trading scheme under the guise of helping farmers and the climate,” said Ben Lilliston, Director of Climate Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “A smarter, more effective strategy is deeper investments in existing, popular Farm Bill conservation programs that farmers trust and that strengthen soil health, improve climate resilience and reduce emissions.
“The offset mechanism in the Growing Climate Solutions Act perpetuates the false idea that agriculture carbon reduction ‘credits’ can reduce pollution. However, the opposite is true. Fossil fuel industries destroying Indigenous lands and territories in the Dakotas and infrastructure such as Line 3 in Minnesota would be allowed to purchase credits like these to claim so-called net-zero emissions and carbon neutrality,” said Tom BK Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network. “Offset programs like these continue the lie that carbon offsets, in any form, are a way to solve the climate crisis, while dividing communities in the process.”
“Youth are becoming more active on the role of food and agriculture in climate change. Given our role on the frontlines of climate advocacy, we understand the importance that carbon offset programs are not used. Such programs allow food systems to continue operating in an unsustainable manner that jeopardizes our future,” Lana Weidgenant, Deputy Partnerships Director of Zero Hour.
“Factory farm gas entrenches a system of corporate pollution that concentrates harm in Black, Latino, Indigenous, and white rural communities. No real climate solution sells out the many to benefit the few. Our government should work for the people, not corporate polluters, to secure a clean climate for all.” Brent Newell, Food Project Senior Attorney, Public Justice.
Instead of creating ineffective pollution trading systems, the groups are urging policies that focus on eliminating pollution directly at the source, living wages for farmers and food chain workers, and the promotion of regenerative farming that can effectively sequester carbon.
The groups are calling on lawmakers to expand on existing USDA programs that have proven effective, such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, the Conservation Stewardship Program, the Conservation Technical Assistance Program, the Grassland Reserve Program and Farmable Wetlands Program.