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OCA on What Congress Should Be Doing with the Farm Bill: Agriculture and the Climate Crisis

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Organic Transitions pagePolitics and Democracy page and our USDA Watch page.


What specific issues that fall outside the current Farm Bill should be considered part of food and farm policy?

By some estimates, industrial agriculture, is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes it the biggest culprit when it comes to climate change. Our current food and farming systems rely on chemical-intensive, soil-destructive genetically engineered crops, factory farms that produce huge cesspools of waste, the slashing of rainforests to grow unsustainable crops, and a fossil fuel-guzzling, long-distance transportation system.  

Given that scenario, you'd think the Farm Bill debate would be all about climate change and the climate change debate would be all about agriculture. Unfortunately, those two worlds have yet to collide in a meaningful way.

Experts agree that we can reverse climate change by returning to an organic, sustainable food and farming system. By grazing animals, rather than confining them in factory farms, we can suck carbon out of the atmosphere and use it to build nutrient-rich, organic soil and restore grasslands. And we can end the practice of feeding animals genetically engineered monocrops, which are grown with soil-depleting and polluting chemicals.

What local/regional or other model(s) should we be scaling up?

Restorative grazing on public lands

On the 155 million acres of public land used for livestock grazing, leaseholders should be required to use techniques that improve the soil and sequester carbon, including carbon ranchingholistic planned grazing, and mob grazing.

Soil carbon sequestration

Farmers that receive federal subsidies should be required to continuously improve soil carbon sequestration, following the models provided by the Soil Carbon CoalitionManaging Wholes, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Health / Soil Quality program.

Farmers' organic farming practices like composting that increase soil carbon should be supported and rewarded.

Moratorium on agriculture's GHG pollution

We need a national moratorium on agricultural practices and land-use changes related to agriculture practices that cause greenhouse gas emissions, starting with moratoriums on Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and plowing up wetlands.