Ag, feed crop producers to carry on mitigation work post US exit from Paris Climate Agreement

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

iStock/Thisisdavid88
iStock/Thisisdavid88

Related tags: Climate change, Greenhouse gas

Several ag and feed crop trade groups, along with agri-businesses, decry exit from Paris Climate agreement and say work on climate mitigation practices is expected to continue.

Some agri-businesses and sector organizations, including the National Farmers Union (NFU), Cargill and the CEOs of Dow Chemical and DuPont, were among those to ask the Trump Administration to remain a part of the Paris Climate Agreement or to have spoken out against the exit. The groups have raised concerns for agricultural producers looking forward.

Although not all agricultural producers may be of the same mindset regarding climate change, the topic is an increasingly common one in the sector, said Tom Driscoll, NFU director of conservation policy. “The conversation is becoming more widely accepted more and more producers are becoming more and more comfortable,”​ he added.

“There are a lot of people who are willing to say something is going on even if they don’t want to call it climate change,”​ he told FeedNavigator. Many producers have noticed that production conditions have changed from past years and some are finding benefits from sustainability practices, he added.

David MacLennan, Cargill chairman and CEO said the agri-giant remains committed to addressing the role of climate change throughout its global supply chain.

“It is extremely disappointing,”​ he said of the decision. “Exiting international accords like the Paris Agreement will negatively impact trade, economic vitality, the state of our environment, and relationships amongst the world community."

Concerns for the feed, agriculture sector

The move away from the climate accord could make it harder to coordinate mitigation efforts with other countries, hinder international trade and it may have a dampening effect on rural communities, said Driscoll. “We’re no longer at the table,”​ he added.

“The first problem is that climate change impairs the ability for producers to grow food, fuel and fiber,” ​he said. “And we are less likely to achieve our international climate goals that have been deemed important economy wide and very important for agriculture.”

Even as producers continue work with state and local governments and agri-businesses to address the topic, producers may be put at a disadvantage on an international level, he said. “Going against the entire world with a problem like climate change, the trade negotiators are very aware of this so when we’re talking to other countries about greater access for our commodities, [and] livestock products this will be something of an elephant in the room,”​ he added.

The move takes the US out of a conversation on issues related to addressing climate change, said MacLennan.  

“That said, we have no intention of backing away from our efforts to address climate change in the food and agriculture supply chains around the world and in fact this will inspire us to work even harder,”​ he said. “Caring about sustainability of the planet is not only the right thing to do for people and the environment, it is also good business.”

Ongoing ‘climate mitigating’ efforts

NFU also plans to continue its work with sustainability and climate mitigating practices, said Driscoll. Current efforts include work to support climate resilient practices in the upcoming farm bill, like improving the way crop insurance work with cover crops.

Another effort is to help producers find climate smart agricultural practices that have co-benefits for the environment, he said. “There’s a lot you can do on 500 acres of corn in Iowa that is good for the Des Moines River,”​ he added.

The NFU is doing outreach through its foundation to promote education regarding climate resilient practices, said Driscoll. “And, for now, conservation programs in the federal government and energy title do offer producers ways to continue to progress,”​ he added.

It is unclear how long that support will continue, he said.

“The education piece is huge – to get them thinking about what climate change means for them,”​ he said. “This is a significant threat to food security [producers need to] be ready and adaptable and [know] what are the steps that you can take to mitigate climate change on your farm.”

Additionally, there are several state level and regional projects that have started to address projects like encouraging carbon capture and soil improvement, he said. These include efforts like California’s carbon program and the regional greenhouse gas initiative that includes several northeastern and mid-Atlantic states.

“We are seeing in state and local government, and the private sector that people who are thinking about this in those arenas are not backing down,”​ said Driscoll. “Be it progressive state departments of agriculture – that may have educational opportunities, or programs of support for producers to build up their soil health – I think there will be support at the state and local level and the private sector.”

Such efforts may not see the coordination and there may not be as many options for small producers, but the work is not expected to stop, he said.

Paris Agreement overview

The Paris Agreement​ was a way for countries to take part in a global response to climate change with the goal of focusing on efforts to keep global temperatures from rising past certain levels and stabilize atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, according to information from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It also was intended to improve countries’ ability to manage the effects of climate change.

The agreement took effect on November 4, 2016.

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