In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, uncertainty was everywhere. Would the virus spread, and where? What did this mean for day-to-day life? Pretty quickly, that uncertainty showed up at the grocery store. I remember seeing partially empty shelves as people panicked and stocked up on food.
Today, plenty of uncertainty remains, but our grocery store shelves are full again. America’s food supply chain has proven to be strong and resilient. America’s farmers are at the beginning of that supply chain, including growers here in New Jersey. I’m so grateful for the work they’ve done to keep us fed even during these tumultuous times.
But COVID-19 is not the only challenge facing our country or our farmers. Climate change, with its unpredictable precipitation, rising heat, and stronger extreme weather events, brings another level of uncertainty to America’s agriculture sector. It’s time for Congress to enact legislation that will combat climate change and give farmers more support.
Encouragingly, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives have introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act. This legislation provides the incentive for farmers and foresters to engage in sustainable practices by helping them to access lucrative carbon credit markets. Basically, it will be easier for farmers to get paid for emissions they reduce and carbon they sequester. The bill gives farmers technical assistance to develop practices that are eligible for carbon credits, measure the value of those credits, and certify them for trading on the market. This is good news for farmers and for the planet, since agriculture and forestry contribute an estimated 10.5% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the USDA.
Here in New Jersey, climate change is already affecting our farmers through an increase in tropical storms which have resulted in massive flooding and dangerous winds that knock down power lines for thousands of residents. The Growing Climate Solutions Act would help farmers combat these concerning trends and reap a financial benefit while they do so.
I urge each and every New Jersey Representative from both sides of the aisle to support this bill.
In July, the Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing on this legislation. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking member on the committee and a cosponsor of the Growing Climate Solutions Act said, “While farmers are uniquely affected by the climate crisis, they are also a critically important part of the solution.”
I couldn’t agree more. Even as farmers need support to navigate our changing climate, they have huge potential to help prevent the worst of the possible changes. Congress should continue to work together to pass bipartisan legislation that values farmers’ contributions to feeding America and solving the challenge of climate change.
Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Madison Schaefer is a volunteer with the Hoboken chapter of CCL.