Regeneration International Launches U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal

“Today, tens of thousands of young people with the Sunrise Movement are linking arms with the tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers in this historic coalition to demand a Green New Deal that reinvests in our family farms and empowers them to be the heroes we need them to be to stop the climate crisis.” – Garrett Blad, Sunrise Movement, September 18, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On September 18, Regeneration International, with the Sunrise Movement and Organic Consumers Association (OCA), officially launched the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal. 

Five members of the U.S. Congress joined the press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to call for a Green New Deal for farmers and ranchers. (Read the press release here).

Earlier in the day, the coalition delivered a letter to every member of Congress, signed by more than 500 individual farms, and 50 organizations representing more than 10,000 farmers and ranchers, asking Congress to support the Green New Deal Resolution and pledging to work with Congress to reform U.S. food and farming policy.

Representatives of the Women, Food & Agriculture Network, Indiana Farmers Union and American Sustainable Business Council joined in the press conference, which was covered by multiple media outlets, including Politico, The Hill, Civil Eats and FERN AgInsider.

Coalition will focus on much needed policy reform

As Ohio farmer and writer, Gene Logdson, wrote in his article, “The Myth of the Self-Made Yeoman:”

No figure is more endearing and enduring in agriculture than the lonely plowman out there on the horizon who raises himself by his own bootstraps to financial success. Only problem is, there is no occupation more dependent on the cooperation of society and nature to achieve success than farming.

The “cooperation of society” must include policy support. Yet it’s tough to get policy support in the U.S. for organic and regenerative farmers and ranchers—when Big Ag spends more on lobbying for policies to prop up its degenerative GMO monoculture and factory farm practices than do lobbyists for the defense sector, as reported by Truthout.

Agribusiness lobbying efforts result in billions of dollars worth of subsidies, which go primarily to the largest and wealthiest farmers—whose practices are polluting our waterways, producing junk food and destroying soil health. In fact, the largest 15 percent of farm businesses receive 85 percent of the $25 billion spent annually on farm subsidies.

As Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said at the press launch of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal:

“We’re paying too much to the wrong people to grow the wrong food in the wrong places.”

Empowering farmers to work for us all

How do independent organic regenerative farmers and ranchers compete with Big Ag’s deep pockets for policies that help them—and by extension, help all of us? Policies that empower them to transition to practices that keep our water clean? Policies that give more of us better access to healthier food? And policies that restore climate stability?

We hope it’s by forming a grassroots lobbying coalition that works together with—not just in parallel with—the food and natural health movements, the social and economic justice movements, environmentalists and climate activists to pressure Congress to pass a Green New Deal for farmers and ranchers.

Last week was just the start. Now, the work begins. The coalition will work to grow larger and more powerful—since the September launch, the coalition has grown to include 600 individual farmers/ranchers and 52 organizations representing about 20,000 farmers total.

Coalition members are now organizing farmer-to-farmer outreach. They’ll fan out into their communities to connect with consumers, environmentalists, church groups and climate activists—anyone who cares about the future of our food and our environment.

Ultimately, the coalition will use the grassroots power it builds to work with Congress, especially the coalition’s Congressional Advisory Committee, to rapidly scale up U.S. food and farming policy change. Plans include organizing Congressional briefings and hearings, and inviting members of Congress to visit regenerative farms to see for themselves how regenerative agriculture restores soil health, including the soil’s potential to sequester carbon, and reinvigorates local economies.

Follow these links for more on the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal:

Press coverage of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal

What is the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal?

What are the coalition’s policy goals?

How can I support the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal?

U.S. farmers and ranchers can join the coalition by signing this letter.

Katherine Paul is communications director for Regeneration International. To keep up with Regeneration International, sign up for our newsletter.

Don’t Go Vegan to Save the Planet. You Can Help by Being a Better Meat-Eater.

There are millions of self-described vegans in the United States; recent estimates suggest they are up to 3% of the population and possibly more. They have a host of reasons for justifying their animal-free diets. For one, they argue, animal husbandry is brutal and cruel toward animals; two, they claim that animal farming is ruinous to the environment.

Vegans are not precisely wrong about all of this, but they’re only half-right. It is true that industrial animal farming is ecologically destructive, that it is cruel and barbarous, and that many if not most of the animals unlucky enough to be a part of it suffer in ways that are difficult to comprehend. All of this is well-documented and undeniable.

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that you have to go vegan. If you’re uncomfortable with animal farming, but are unwilling to adopt the vegan lifestyle, you don’t need to stop eating meat. You just need to eat better meat.

 

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Corporate Agribusiness Is Blocking Important Action on the Climate

Climate change action plans often call for less fossil fuel usage, reduced carbon dioxide emissions and a shift toward renewable energy sources. But one area that hasn’t received the broader attention it deserves is industrial farming.

The latest report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) determined that the turning over of more and more land to commercial agriculture has resulted in increasing net greenhouse gas emissions, the loss of natural ecosystems and declining biodiversity. And so, “sustainable land management can contribute to reducing the negative impacts of multiple stressors, including climate change,” the report finds.

This IPCC offering followed on the heels of the National Academies of Sciences study into negative emissions technologies and carbon sequestration, which also found that efforts to store more carbon in agricultural soils generally have “large positive side benefits,” including increased productivity, water holding capacity and yield stability.

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Best Way to Remove Carbon: Sequestering It in Its Natural Sinks

There is one thing that worries climate scientists universally: the positive feedback loop. This is a process where changing one quantity changes the second one, and the change in the second quantity, in turn, changes the first. Scientists fear a positive feedback loop may spiral the climate crisis out of control.

Desertification is an example of a positive feedback loop, just as the melting of the Arctic ice cap, thawing of the Siberian permafrost, and the large-scale release of methane from methane hydrate lying on the sea and ocean floors.

The climate crisis is causing desertification and, in turn, desertification is exacerbating the crisis. The cycle continues.

Let me explain this, but first a disclaimer: this is an oversimplified version of an extremely complex process.

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Farming Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

Could changing our land use and agricultural practices make a dent in addressing climate change? Yes, says Project Drawdown and a new report from the IPCC.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a new report that highlights the importance of land use and agriculture in climate change.

Good! It’s a crucial area for us to focus on, and it’s often neglected.

I’ve been working on this topicon and offsince the 1990s, and have been bewildered why it doesn’t get more attention. For some reason, when we think of greenhouse gas emissions, we envision factories, cars, and smokestacks — not farm fields, plantations, and cattle ranches. But, it turns out, land use and agriculture are among the biggest contributors to climate change — and can be among the biggest climate solutions.

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We Can Stop the Climate Crisis

It’s time to farm (and eat!) like the world depends on it.

We can stop the climate crisis.

At least, we can start reducing the 23% of global greenhouse gas emissions that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently attributed to agricultural activities.

The answer is regenerative organic agriculture. And the time to implement it is now.

In a report published last week, the UN concluded that humans cannot stave off the effects of climate change without making drastic changes to the ways we grow food and use land.

Conventional, industrial agriculture depends on the use of chemical inputs and fossil-fuel intensive synthetic fertilizers, in addition to heavy machinery and tillage, to grow food. Industrial farming also relies on factory farms for animals. These methods release large amounts of carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere.

In contrast, science proves that regenerative organic systems, which prioritize soil health and good farming practices like cover cropping, crop rotations, and pasturing animals, use 45% less energy and release 40% fewer carbon emissions than conventional agriculture, with no statistical difference in yields.

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Structurally Complex Forests Better at Carbon Sequestration

Forests in the eastern United States that are structurally complex – meaning the arrangement of vegetation is highly varied – sequester more carbon, according to a new study led by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The study demonstrates for the first time that a forest’s structural complexity is a better predictor of carbon sequestration potential than tree species diversity. The discovery may hold implications for the mitigation of climate change.

“Carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas, is taken up by trees through the process of photosynthesis and some of that ‘fixed’ carbon is allocated to wood,” said Chris Gough, Ph.D., corresponding author on the study and an associate professor in the Department of Biology in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Our study shows that more complex forests are better at taking up and sequestering carbon in wood and, in doing so, they leave less carbon dioxide in the air.”

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Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Better For The Planet? Here’s The Science

For the environmentally minded carnivore, meat poses a culinary conundrum. Producing it requires a great deal of land and water resources, and ruminants such as cows and sheep are responsible for half of all greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, according to the World Resources Institute.

That’s why many researchers are now calling for the world to cut back on its meat consumption. But some advocates say there is a way to eat meat that’s better for the planet and better for the animals: grass-fed beef.

But is grass-fed beef really greener than feedlot-finished beef? Let’s parse the science.

What’s the difference between grass-fed and feedlot beef?

Feedlot calves begin their lives on pasture with the cow that produced them. They’re weaned after six to nine months, then grazed a bit more on pasture. They’re then “finished” for about 120 days on high-energy corn and other grains in a feedlot, gaining weight fast and creating that fat-marbled beef that consumers like.

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We Could Have Less than 60 Years of Farming Left — Unless We Support This Growing Movement

Sixty years. That’s how long U.N. officials said we have until all the world’s topsoil degrades to the point that it’s no longer useful for farming (and this was back in 2014, so it’s more like 55 years now).

Massive farms—the kinds that lean on chemical pesticides, large tilling machines, and other growing techniques that strip the ground of nutrients—are one of the biggest threats to our soil. As the global population rises, more hungry mouths to feed will likely mean more of these environmentally damaging growing practices. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll find regenerative farming that actually mimics nature to restore soil health by pumping nutrients back into the ground. (You can learn more on how it works here.)

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The Green New Deal Wants Farmers to Restore the Land, Not Keep Wrecking It

By the time California rancher Doniga Markegard picks up the phone around lunchtime, she has already moved the chickens, fed the chickens, fed the pigs, cared for a new litter of 11 piglets, moved the sheep, tended to the horses, milked the cow, and completed a business advising session about the future of her family’s 10,000-acre operation. Overall, a pretty typical Monday.

“We’re good at working with the land and working with the animals, but then all of a sudden you have to add marketing and sales and inventory management,” says Markegard. Based 50 miles south of San Francisco in Half Moon Bay, Markegard and her family produce grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork and chicken for customers in the Bay Area. If they operated in a more traditional way, they would specialize in a single product and plug neatly into the industrial agriculture system. Instead, in order to break even, they have to run the equivalent of a consumer-facing small business with a farm attached.

“We’d love to just be out on the land with the livestock, doing what we do, but that’s not practical when you really want to be fully regenerative,” she says.

Regenerative agriculture might sound at first like a subtle variation on organic. But if the term “organic” highlights what’s absent—no chemical fertilizers, no pesticides—”regenerative” goes a step further, advocating for practices like adaptive multi-paddock grazing, in which ruminants like cows and sheep are slowly rotated across a property, so they graze on and fertilize one section of the farm at a time while allowing the rest to naturally regrow and replenish. Methods like this require more hands-on planning involvement from the farmers, but they’ve been found to restore soil health, capture carbon, and help ranches thrive over the long term.

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