The Green New Deal would benefit independent family farmers
BY RANDY DUGGER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 02/18/19 12:05 PM EST 226
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY CONTRIBUTORS ARE THEIR OWN AND NOT THE VIEW OF THE HILL
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Too many times when an idea or proposal comes along that carries substantial merit, those in opposition will attack a single talking point as a strategy to discredit the entire message. The Green New Deal (GND) is no exception. Because of a comment made by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(D-N.Y.), industrial agriculture lobbyists and special interest groups are happy to completely overlook the 14-page resolution. In true smoke-and-mirrors fashion, opponents just want to talk about bovine flatulence.
Introduced by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ocasio-Cortez, the GND is meant to move the U.S. forward in mitigating climate change—an important and necessary measure. This is something that farmers, who suffer significantly from the impacts of climate change, should back. As noted in a recent press release, National Farmers Union believes farmers must lead the charge in combatting climate change. This is a notion that I, as vice president for Indiana Farmers Union, fully support.
The Green New Deal proposes to work collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector. The resolution stands in support of family farming, sustainable farming, and land use practices that increase soil health and build food systems that provide universal access to healthy food. These are all great provisions.
With continued concentration in the agriculture sector, margins are shrinking. The average farm income for 2018 was -$1,316, according to USDA’s Economic Research Service—a 13 percent drop from 2017 and the lowest in the past six years. Last year, the farmer’s share of the overall food dollar fell to the lowest it has been in the past 25 years.
Faced with government policies that regularly favor the biggest operators, family farms are folding. Recent reports show 11 independent dairy farms in Wisconsin shutting down each week. More than 600 farms went out of business in 2018. And, thanks to concentration in the market, this isn’t a new trend. The U.S. has lost 95 percent of its egg farmers, 90 percent of its pig producers, and 88 percent of dairy producers in the last 40 years.
With fewer family farms, rural communities and local economies suffer. Our farmland also is being lost. The American Farmland Trust estimates an acre of U.S. farmland goes into development every two minutes. Without question, our climate—and our world—is rapidly changing, and The Green New Deal very rightly suggests we should support sustainable and regenerative agriculture, which has been proven to simultaneously capture carbon and build soil health, while offering positive social and environmental impacts.
While family farmers are facing more challenges than ever, we continue to be passionate about our responsibility to be good stewards of water, land and environment. The GND is a first step to tilt farm policy toward supporting those efforts, rather than lining the pockets of corporate agribusiness.
In the Farmers Union, we have a saying that we regularly share with the many farmers we represent: “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu.” The Green New Deal brings all of these important points to the table. It calls for support of independent family farms, sustainable farming, and healthy land practices and food systems. As independent family farmers, that’s something we can all sink our teeth into.
Randy Dugger is vice president of Indiana Farmers Union.