By Max Fisher, Vice President of Economics and Government Relations
In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on April 29 regarding climate policy priorities, NGFA urged the agency to implement “climate-smart” policies in a manner that allows U.S. agricultural producers and agribusinesses to enhance income without idling land or distorting planting and marketing decisions.
NGFA submitted the comments in response to USDA’s request for input on its climate strategy, published on March 16 in the Federal Register.
NGFA noted its support of working land conservation programs, including the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) because they provide incentives to help producers adopt best management practices to maintain and expand their output while improving environmental efficiency. “These working lands conservation programs protect natural resources, support farmers, and enhance the productivity of agricultural lands,” NGFA noted.
Policies that idle non-targeted cropland reduce U.S. agricultural output and market share, hurt rural economies and harm the ability of disadvantaged, small and/or beginning farmers to access farmland, NGFA said in its comments. “USDA should be particularly thoughtful on how certain conservation incentives force these farmers to compete against the federal government for access to land,” the comments noted.
NGFA also outlined that in 1977 there were approximately 465 million acres of cropland in the United States, and according to the latest Food and Agriculture Organization data, the quantity of U.S. cropland has declined to only 396 million acres, a decrease of 69 million acres in just a little over 40 years. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has added approximately 477 million acres of cropland since 1977.
In 1964 the U.S. share of world exports was 60 percent, 89 percent and 36 percent for corn, soybeans and wheat, respectively, and by 2020 it had dropped to 30 percent, 35 percent and 14 percent. In addition, NGFA said global agricultural competition is increasing and as academic research has found, world market conditions suggest that set-aside programs are not an effective farm policy for corn and soybeans.
Expansion of land retirement programs like CRP sends market signals for U.S. agricultural competitors to offset the reduction in U.S. production share and results in a net increase in atmospheric carbon, NGFA stated. According to a 2018 Reuters report, Brazil’s expanding soybean production has resulted in the plowing under of more than half of South America’s largest savanna which also serves as a tremendous storehouse of carbon. Known as the Cerrado, this savanna is disappearing at a rate four times faster than the Amazon rainforest.
“Prioritizing or drastically expanding land idling practices in the U.S. that ultimately exacerbate global greenhouse emissions globally is a counterproductive strategy,” NGFA said.
Finally, NGFA urged USDA to prioritize federal resources toward working land programs, which “incentivize broader adoption of best management farming and ranching practices across potentially hundreds of millions of the nation’s best acres for food production.”
New Task Force: NGFA recently announced the creation of a new Climate Change and Sustainability Task Force. Chaired by Joe Kapraun, manager of the grain marketing division at GROWMARK, Inc., the new task force conducted its first meeting on April 29 to discuss NGFA’s approach on climate policy areas.