By Isabella Brafman with Ed Yowell
On Thursday, February 7, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) released their outline for the Green New Deal, a resolution pointing to a socially and environmentally sustainable future for all. Key elements of the resolution aim to: cut out carbon emissions from electricity generation, transportation, and agriculture; expand renewable energy; and create millions of good, “green” jobs, all in an attempt to make the United States carbon neutral by 2030.
An essential aspect of preventing a great climate crisis is remediating our agricultural practices. For agriculture to thrive, the environment needs to be non-toxic and healthy, with best practices that support clean water, air, and soil systems. Industrial scale agriculture, including commodity mono-cropping and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), are the pillars of our current food system, combined they contribute to ocean dead zones, diminished soil health, erosion, and 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions!
Fortunately, the Green New Deal includes targets to address these problems in our food system. To combat the crises related to clean air, clean water, and healthy food, the resolution articulates certain goals and projects: “working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible…by supporting family farming; by investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health; and by building a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food,” (https://ocasio-cortez.house.gov/sites/ocasio-cortez.house.gov/files/Resolution%20on%20a%20 Green%20New%20Deal.pdf).
The condemnation of the Green New Deal was swift. Critics, mostly GOP, but also some Democrats, seized on parts of the plan, notably citing that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach a zero emissions in a decade.
Conservation programs, like the ones in the 2018 Farm Bill, are proven examples of implementable programs that can help protect the environment. For instance, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) gives farmers the opportunity to earn payments for managing, maintaining, and expanding conservation activities that improve soil, water, and air quality. These resources in turn help farmers achieve sustainable food production, while also reducing the potential risks and costs that result from a changing climate. Putting money towards programs like this, instead of giving subsidies to Big Agriculture, would chip away at greenhouse gas emissions, as well as promote economic security for small-scale farmers. Unfortunately, the 2018 Farm Bill cuts future conservation funding for CSP. However, the Green New Deal provides an opportunity to reassess the critical importance conservation funding and the need to increase it.
The Green New Deal is in the very beginning stages of its development. Senator Markey and Representative Ocasio-Cortez soon will begin to work on Green New Deal bills. While the goals are lofty and many, and while not everyone may agree, the Green New Deal is driving the discussion forward now, towards 2020. Several presidential candidates already are supporting the resolution. As they support the continuation of the Green New Deal agenda, it is important to ensure that agricultural goals written in the resolution specify policy solutions that can be implemented effectively.
As of now, the Green New Deal has 64 House Co-Sponsors and 9 Senate Co-Sponsors. You can find Co-Sponsors at https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-resolution/59/cosponsors and https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-resolution/59/cosponsors.
You can help keep the discussion alive. If your representatives are not supporting the Green New Deal, ask them to. Send this message to your US Senators and Representatives-
I write regarding the Green New Deal. I am a constituent and a supporter of Slow Food USA, the national, nonprofit organization dedicated to a food chain that is Good, Clean, and Fair for All. We believe that everyone has the right to enjoy ample, sustainably, and humanely produced food that is good for human health and well-being, the planet, and those who work to put food on our tables.
I believe that remediating our agricultural practices is an essential aspect of preventing a global climate crisis. Industrial scale agriculture is a pillar of our current food system and contributes to dead zones, diminished soil health, erosion, and 9% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The Green New Deal resolution includes goals that address these food system problems. While the Green New Deal conversations are just beginning, I believe that there are doable and effective strategies for changing our agriculture practices to ensure a livable and equitable future. I urge
you to support the Green New Deal and continue the conversation about improving our farm and food policies.
You can find your Senators’ contact information at
And your Representative’s at https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative