Last week, Farmers for a Sustainable Future Coalition was launched by 21 U.S. farm groups with the intent of promoting environmental and economic sustainability. The coalition intends to serve as a primary resource for policymakers as they consider sustainability and climate policies important to agriculture. Some of the organizations that have founded Farmers for a Sustainable Future include American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Cattleman’s Beef Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Pork Producers Council and 16 other organizations representing all of the major commodities produced in the U.S. Guiding principles of the organization call for policies that support science-based research, voluntary incentive-based conservation programs, investment in infrastructure, and solutions that ensure vibrant rural communities and a healthy planet. The organization points out that although farmers and ranchers have recently received criticism for their production practices from environmental activists, they have in reality already made great strides in moving toward sustainability. For example, no-till and conservation tillage is practiced on half of the country’s approximately 400 million acres of crop land, and farmers have enrolled 140 million acres of land into USDA conservation programs, and farmers are leaders in using geoexchange heating in their shops and livestock buildings, embraced solar energy for electricity and have installed windmills and methane digesters on many livestock operations.
At the USDA Outlook Forum last week, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue laid out an agriculture innovation agenda. The agenda commits the USDA to Create a comprehensive U.S. agriculture innovation strategy to align public and private research efforts, integrate the latest innovative technologies and practices in USDA programs and improve USDA data collection and reporting. While no mention is made of how climate change may be affecting agricultural production, the agenda calls for a 40 % increase in production by 2050, while building landscape resiliency through forestry management, enhancing carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, and capitalizing on innovative technologies and practices to achieve a net reduction in the agricultural sector’s carbon footprint by 2050 without regulatory overreach.
Hemp growers in Colorado planted over 52,000 acres of the crop in 2019. Although not all states have reported hemp acres yet, Colorado was the was the leading state in the nation. However, Colorado growers are concerned about the Interim Final Rule for hemp that was issued recently by the USDA. Governor Polis warned that as currently written, the rule “does not support best practices in hemp production at a critical time in the development of this important industry.” Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg points out that the regulations aren’t scalable or easily implemented in a state with a robust hemp industry as large as it is in Colorado. Greenburg is concerned that small farming operations will have the hardest time complying with the rules. A major problem is the that rules require hemp growers test their crop for THC levels within 15 days of harvest, which is complicated because only two DEA approved testing labs are in the state, and fickle weather in Colorado often delays harvest of all crops, but will be especially detrimental to hemp growers since they will need to get another test if their harvest is delayed for more than 15 days.
As the month of presidents ends, a quote from Martha Washington is in order. “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not our circumstances.”