Trump’s Rash Departure From Paris Agreement Leaves Farmers Worse Off


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GUEST AUTHOR: Roger Johnson is president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), a grassroots organization that represents nearly 200,000 family farmers, ranchers, fisherman and rural communities across the Unites States. Johnson is a third generation farmer from Turtle Lake, North Dakota, and previously served as North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner. Follow NFU on Twitter at @NFUDC.

This piece previously appeared on The Hill. It appears here by permission of the National Farmer’s Union.


We are fortunate to be the most agriculturally productive country in the world. American farmers and ranchers grow and raise the best crops and animals on the planet, and our food system efficiently delivers these items at a low cost to billions of consumers across the country and the world. So when President Trump announced yesterday that he plans to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement — and thereby repudiate the sound science linking greenhouse gas emissions to climate change — he imperiled the livelihoods of farmers, ranchers and all those that rely on them.

For family farmers and ranchers, climate change is an economic issue. It has been affecting our ability to make a living from the land for years. The facts show the damaging effects of rising temperatures, extreme precipitation, severe drought and flooding, and other climate challenges on agriculture and food production worldwide.

The increase in these extreme weather events limits the number of workable days farmers have, and it affects important aspects of crop and animal production like pollination, plant and animal growth as well as size, pest and weed pressure, soil health, and reproduction.

Agriculture | National Climate Assessment

Thus far, we’ve adapted to meet the needs of consumers despite the changing climate through public and private research and technology development. But we must do more — not less. 

Over time, scientists expect the effects of climate change to compound, making it even more difficult to grow crops and raise livestock. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all agriculture production systems will be affected to some degree over the next 25 years. We cannot sustain a viable agriculture system if climate change is left unchecked.

That’s why the Paris climate agreement is so incredibly important. It brought nearly every country together to face climate change, and it highlighted U.S. leadership on an issue that stands to impact the entire world. The accord is a recognition that the changing climate can be attributed to greenhouse gas emissions, and that the world should work together to limit these emissions for the sake of our economies, communities and future generations.

The deepest disappointment of the president’s decision is removing the U.S. as the leader on climate change policy, instead sitting on the sidelines when it comes to the salient issue of our time. Rather than looking to the future and embracing a newer, better, cleaner way of doing business, he seems only able to look to the past for outdated solutions. Yesterday marked a low point for our country and our standing in the world.

In his remarks, the president made a shortsighted and demonstrably false economic argument for leaving the pact. He contended that our economy stands to lose money and jobs as we curb carbon emissions. To make that contention is to neglect the real and lasting harm that climate change threatens for our cities — for our farms, and for our rural communities. And it ignores the potential gains that American ingenuity and productivity, particularly in farming and rural communities that supported his presidential bid, have to offer for mitigating climate change.

Under the Paris climate agreement, the U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 26 percent by 2025. Many of the actions that would have helped the U.S. achieve that goal would have stimulated economic growth and created jobs in rural communities.


Agriculture | National Assessment

When properly incentivized, farmers, ranchers and forest owners have tremendous potential to sequester carbon and contribute to the mitigation of climate change. By denying climate science, the president stripped rural America of valuable opportunities to confront a current farm economic crisis and stem the exodus of young people from rural communities.

By all indications, the president is content leaving the agreement without an effective strategy for climate resilience, exposing family farmers and ranchers to the worst effects of climate change. This will have devastating consequences for family farming and ranching operations and all those who rely on them for food, feed, fuel and fiber.

Urgent and decisive action on the parts of cities, corporations and nonprofits is needed to avoid these catastrophic climate impacts on the food system. Luckily, many of these stakeholders have shown leadership in this area and a willingness to voluntary reduce emissions for the betterment of our global society. But to achieve maximum climate benefits, farmers, ranchers and rural residents must be engaged and play a central role in climate change mitigation and resiliency. The future of our food system depends on it.

 [Please consider supporting Food and Farm Discussion Lab with an  ongoing contribution of $1, $2, $3, $5 or $10 a month on Patreon. All contributors receive a subscription to our email newsletter the FAFDL Dispatch. ]


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