Farmers & Climate Change

August 2019 would be a month people remember if disasters weren’t so common these days.
The Amazon–an area responsible for 20 percent of the world’s oxygen generation–was on fire. An unimaginable 100,000 fires have blazed this year.
The EPA prepared to end limits on the amount of methane that the oil and gas industry are allowed to emit. (Pound-for-pound methane is 20 times the pollutant that carbon emissions are.)
Hurricane Dorian–with 140 mile an hour winds–was posed to be the most destructive hurricane to hit Florida in 30 years–if it turned inland.
And Washington Governor Jay Inslee resigned from the presidential race after releasing the sixth and last installment of his book-length plan to fight global warming.
And it will be a serious tragedy if Inslee’s plan dies along along with his campaign.
The first two of four strategies in Inslee’s “Growing Rural Prosperity” installment are “Investing in Agricultural Innovations to Defeat Climate Change” and “Keeping Farmers Farming.”
They demonstrate that Inslee “gets it”. He knows how farmers are being hurt by tariffs and environment conditions, what experiments across the county indicate about future agricultural practices, and how federal ag agencies operate.
None of the summaries I’ve seen does Inslee’s plan justice, and internet searches jumble all Inslee’s proposals together, so I’ll give you the link up front: https://www.jayinslee.com/issues/growing-rural-prosperity.
Maybe those who’ve already imagined paying farmers to “carbon farm” won’t be as impressed as I am, but it seems an idea whose time has come.
“Carbon farming is the practice of growing crops while pulling carbon from the atmosphere.” Carbon-rich soil “boosts production and yields and helps create a sponge in the soil that allows for better absorption and water retention in the face of both flooding and droughts.”
We’d need research to determine the carbon outcomes and economic value from different farming measures, and to develop a just payment system. No-till farming is mentioned, and I’m not sure it works in areas that depend on irrigation, but apparently many are experimenting with it.
Inslee also wants to expand the program aimed at better management of nitrous oxide use to combat the harmful algal blooms in our waterways.
He would have waste throughout the food processing system processed and marketed as compost. “One application of compost can help stimulate organic soil carbon sequestration for over 100 years.”
Inslee’s approach to the methane that farms contribute to the atmosphere is to capture and process it. He cites a dairy in Wisconsin that creates enough electricity to power 600 homes. How is the methane captured? By “strategies like conversion to dry scrape, composting digestate, innovations in animal feel, enhanced solid separation, thermochemical conversion, and more.”
I confess I don’t understand that, but it’s a good segway to another Inslee recommendation: forgive college loans for farmers just as we do for teachers and others entering public service.
Inslee states that those farming two-thirds of American farmlands will retire in the next 20 years, and we need to see that younger farmers have ways of funding the training and the acreage they will need.
And Inslee doesn’t want mega-farms taking over more land. He sees a few corporations growing “horizontally and vertically” and exerting “total control in their market by holding all of the purchasing power.”
He advises revising our antitrust laws to relate to agriculture and then “aggressively” enforcing those laws. .
Inslee also wants a new law saying farmers can repair their own equipment.
Gov. Inslee won’t be our next president, but I’d give a lot to see him as director of our fight against global warming

Note this editorial by Judy Ferro published by Idaho Press – 2019

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