Agriculture organizations sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai highlighting the great strides the U.S. ag industry has made toward environmental sustainability and climate goals and stressing the importance of voluntary, market and incentive-based policies to help rural economies better adapt to climate change.
The letter comes in response to remarks that Tai made April 15 on “Trade Policy, the Environment and Climate Change.” Tai remarked that “climate-friendly and sustainable agricultural production is essential to meeting our climate and sustainability goals” and U.S. farmers and ranchers can lead the world with innovative carbon conservation practices.
Tai noted in what was her first speech as USTR ambassador that a chasm exists between those who believe that trade policy is a legitimate tool in helping to solve the climate crisis and those who do not. “My job is to bridge that chasm and push for trade reforms that translate into meaningful change in the lives of farmers, ranchers, factory workers, parents, children – not just in the United States, but around the world,” she said.
“Secretary [Tom] Vilsack has proposed ambitious ideas, including expanding the use of cover crops and making carbon capture a mainstream conservation practice. I am eager to work with him to help make these practices the new global standard,” Tai said.
Signing onto the letter were the Agricultural Retailers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Seed Trade Association, American Soybean Association, CropLife America, Farm Credit Council, National Cotton Council, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, USA Rice and the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
“Farmers have come a long way in learning how to maximize carbon sequestration—practices such as reduced tillage and precision agriculture techniques result in storing more carbon in our fields over long periods,” the groups state in the letter. “These insights have helped our industry understand how to better manage carbon and water to ensure long-term sustainability.”
The letter stated they agree there are additional practices that farmers can adopt, including expanded use of cover crops. “With good information and the correct incentives, farmers will achieve even better environmental outcomes,” the letter added.
“As an industry, agriculture does not always get the recognition it deserves for the practices already put in place, but we continue to be committed to improving production practices to reduce our impact on the environment,” the letter stated. “This has become more valuable than ever as supply chain partners field questions from consumers who are increasingly interested in helping the environment; as the United States enters into climate agreements with global partners to reduce GHG emissions; and as the data and technologies to help reduce emissions and sequester carbon become better and more accessible.”
The groups note that they support voluntary, market- and incentive-based policies, advancing science-based outcomes and helping rural economies better adapt to climate change. They note that farmers and ranchers are innovating every day to address climate change and that public policy can help drive both reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and increases in farm income.
“While you discuss the convergence of trade and the environment with your international counterparts,” the letter concluded, “we look forward to engaging further with you and your staff regarding the great strides the U.S. agriculture industry has made, and continues to make, toward environmental sustainability and climate goals.”