If the “Build Back Better” mantra is to become reality for the Biden Administration, particularly in advancing equitable solutions to the climate crisis, it will have to think systemically — not just agency by agency. Systems thinking is especially critical to create a just transition for farming. Our current policy framework supports an industrial system of production that is pushing out farmers while increasing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate risk to the food supply. We need a coordinated approach across multiple agencies to support a more resilient farming system.

After four years of climate denial in the executive…

Growing momentum to curb large-scale, high polluting animal factory farms could result in a big win for the climate, while aiding independent farmers and ranchers trying to stay afloat in a struggling agriculture economy.

A bill introduced last month by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is the latest policy proposal to block the expansion of mega animal factory farms that are closely tied to air and water pollution in many rural communities. The Booker bill would place an immediate moratorium on the construction of new large-scale concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), defined as 1,000 animal units (1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs…

The visceral threats of the climate crisis, experienced through recent Midwest floods and California’s wildfire-linked power outages, are fueling a new sense of political urgency. States like New York are passing bold, new climate policies. The Federal Reserve and financial regulators are finally moving forward to assess the economy’s climate risk. Young people are mobilizing. So where is Congress? Last month, IATP outlined a set of policy reforms to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis designed to support farmers and rural communities, while decisively responding to the urgent threat of climate change.

The Select Committee was established by…

The state of New York’s climate change policy signed into law in June sets ambitious mandates for carbon free electricity by 2040 and requires net zero climate emissions by 2050. But the policy’s novel approach to land-based offsets, and protections for disadvantaged communities and workers as part of a just transition, could set a new bar for other states and have implications for farmers and rural communities.

New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act sets strict emissions reductions for the energy sector. To achieve net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, the law creates a Climate Action Council…

One of core elements of the proposed Green New Deal is a just transition — the creation of fair wage jobs that benefit communities, particularly those currently or formerly dependent on high polluting industries. In early July, a World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute panel ruled that renewable energy policies that supported local green jobs in eight U.S. states violate international trade rules. The case is a direct legacy of the Obama administration’s aggressive free trade agenda, which routinely ran roughshod over environmental and climate concerns.

The WTO case was brought by India against policies in Washington, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, Montana…

New Zealand’s proposed Zero Carbon Act would be one of the first globally to set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions targets for agriculture, including dairy production. New Zealand’s agriculture is responsible for 48 percent of the country’s GHGs, and the dairy industry is linked to nearly half of those emissions. As countries develop new policies to meet their Paris climate commitments, New Zealand’s approach on agriculture will be watched closely.

The New Zealand climate bill follows massive student protests in the country demanding climate action in March and then again in May. New Zealand has been hit particularly hard in…

In the coming weeks, Minnesota is expected to adopt new regulations for agricultural fertilizer use designed to limit water pollution, a move that could also have climate benefits. Synthetic fertilizer use is a major source of agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions both in Minnesota and nationally.

The new Minnesota regulation is the first time the state has set mandatory regulations on how farmers use commercial fertilizer, in particular nitrogen fertilizer applied primarily for corn production. The Groundwater Protection rule will be signed by Minnesota Department of Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen and then by Governor Tim Walz following the end of the…

On the last day of April, 16-year-old Juan de León Gutiérrez died in U.S. government custody in Texas. It was just 10 days since he had crossed the border after migrating from his home in Guatemala. His passing follows the deaths of 8-year old Felipe Gómez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin in December while in Border Patrol custody — they were also from Guatemala.

The Trump administration’s vicious crackdown on people migrating from Mexico and Central America, including unaccompanied children and children separated from their families, is allegedly designed to deter those considering the already dangerous journey north. …

Countries are increasingly advancing proposals to address climate concerns within new and existing trade agreements. Most modern trade agreements, and governing bodies like the World Trade Organization, were negotiated with little or no acknowledgement of the climate crisis. While the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement is based on voluntary pledges, trade agreements include legally binding enforcement tools that are now being considered in the climate context.

In March, the European Commission set new rules on the use of imported palm oil for biodiesel in order to slow associated deforestation and climate change. The European Union is the world’s second biggest importer…

New data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows a steady increase in agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions, much of it linked to industrial systems of crop production and the rise of factory farm systems of animal production. The annually updated GHG data is designed to track U.S. emissions related to the Paris Climate Agreement and to inform national and state-level climate policy.

The EPA’s Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2017 charts GHG emissions both by type and by sector using formats and methodologies established through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Total U.S. GHG…

Ben Lilliston

Ben Lilliston is the Director of Rural Strategies and Climate Change at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

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