Droughts, fires, floods . . . climate instability is forcing U.S. farmers and ranchers to face increasingly frequent and intensifying natural disasters that threaten their land and their livelihoods—and increase food insecurity for everyone.
A growing number of farmers and ranchers understand that the more organic and regenerative farming and grazing practices they deploy, the more climate-resilient their operations become.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) knows it, too. But instead of increasing funding for programs to help farmers adapt to climate change, the Trump administration is proposing cuts to those programs.
Climate chaos is taking a huge toll on agriculture.
Last year (2019) was the second wettest year on record for the nation. Yet by year’s end, 11 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought.
The Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri Rivers all flooded last year, causing nearly 20 million acres of farmland to go unplanted and costing $20 billion. Alaska, where 2.5 million acres of forests burned, and Georgia and North Carolina, which both suffered extreme drought, experienced their hottest years on record.
Some farmers are fighting back by adopting regenerative organic agriculture practices that make their farms more resilient in the face of climate chaos.
For example, when Noah Seim’s Nebraska farm was flooded in March last year, his cover crop ended up serving as a kind of “ark” that allowed him to plant soybeans when neighboring farms were still under water. The USDA reported on the Nebraska flooding and the story of how Noah’s use of cover crops made his farm more resilient than those of his neighbors.
You’d think Noah’s story would spur more investment in programs to help other farmers adopt cover cropping and other regenerative practices.
Instead Trump, who won’t even admit that climate change is real, is waging a war on USDA programs that support regenerative agriculture.
Trump’s 2021 budget proposal eliminates funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the most important tool the USDA has to help farmers like Noah adopt the regenerative organic practices they need for climate resilience.
Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), an organic farmer and a member of the Congressional Advisory Committee for the national coalition of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers for a Green New Deal has a different plan.
Pingree recently introduced the Agriculture Resilience Act, a bill that would, among other things, more than quadruple funding for the CSP by 2024. Pingree’s legislation lays out a plan for the U.S. agriculture sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.