Illinois Farmer and Co-op Leader Urges Congress to Use Data, Flexibility in Crafting Climate LegislationThu, 11 Mar 2021 09:45:38 CST
As Congress works on climate change legislation, policies to promote climate friendly farming practices can boost farm income but must be flexible and attainable by all types of farming operations, said John Reifsteck, an Illinois grain farmer and president of GROWMARK, Inc., at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing today. Reifsteck was testifying on behalf of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), a founding member and co-chair of the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance (FACA).
“Policies should recognize that farming is increasingly a collaborative effort. The best outcomes will come from partnerships between farmers, government, land grant institutions and organizations that are dedicated to helping farmers be successful and their farms remain sustainable. Cooperatives, by their very nature, have a key role to play,” said Reifsteck.
As an example of such a collaboration, Reifsteck discussed his 25-year partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has had a climate research site on his farm since 1996. In that time, it has been estimated more than 8 billion pieces of data have been collected; this site and its data have been used in nearly 400 scientific publications by multiple federal agencies and universities. He then talked about how this work has shown the impact climate friendly farming practices can have.
“Researchers compared my fields, which use conservation tillage, with nearby research sites using conventional tillage,” Reifsteck continued. “We have learned that on my farm conservation tillage sequesters about a 1,000 pounds of carbon per acre annually. In comparison sites that use conventional tillage, a release of nearly 2,000 pounds of carbon per acre per year was found on average. That is a meaningful difference.”
Reifsteck urged that any climate change policies developed by Congress be based on that kind of hard data, drawn from real-world farming operations. He also emphasized that programs should be flexible, both because of the diversity of American agriculture and because of the unpredictability inherent in farming. It is especially important, Reifsteck said, that practices contribute to profitability so that farmers can afford to implement them.
“There is a growing realization that done correctly, policies that promote climate friendly practices can boost farm income, increase productivity, and address one of the most pressing challenges the planet faces,” Refisteck testified. “I believe that co-ops, like GROWMARK and other NCFC members, will be essential for making this vision a reality…. As Congress moves forward with climate change legislation, recognizing that farmer co-ops can help bridge the gap to the producer and magnify the impact of climate-friendly policies should form an important part of any final proposal.”
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