Duvall says farmers committed to being solution to climate change

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Zippy Duvall

American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall testified to the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture Feb. 25 to tell Congress farmers should and will be part of the progression of conservation.

Duvall spoke on behalf of the AFBF as a third-generation farmer, emphasizing the role farmers play in improving soil health, water quality and livestock welfare. While agriculture is looked at as a producer of greenhouse gases, Duvall pointed out that the agriculture industry only accounts for 10% of US emissions – far less than electricity, transportation and other industries.

"U.S. farmers and ranchers have long been at the forefront of climate-smart farming, utilizing scientific solutions, technology, and innovations to raise crops and care for livestock," Duvall said. "These efforts are designed to protect soil and water, efficiently manage manure, produce clean and renewable energy, capture carbon, and improve sustainability."

Farmers have also been able to increase productivity by 287% while using the same resources, Duvall said. He added that the work being done to protect wetlands and forests far offsets the emissions being produced by the agriculture sector. Farmers have even enrolled 140 million acres in federal conservation programs across the country, Duvall said.

Duvall called it a "commitment to sustainability," saying he looks forward to working with legislators on the newly anticipated Farm Bill and other agriculture-related measures that look to stop climate change in its tracks.

"Livestock and crop production are the heart of American agriculture, providing the food we enjoy every day. The daily choices we make on our farm and ranches are driven by our commitment to sustainability," Duvall said. "Farmers have embraced technologies that reduce emissions and increase efficiency, making U.S. agriculture a leader in sustainability. Building upon the strong foundation of voluntary stewardship investments and practices, including those in the Farm Bill, we look forward to working with policymakers to further advance successful sustainable practices in U.S. agriculture."

Farmers and other producers have faced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, Duvall noted, through food supply chain disruptions, labor shortages due to sickness and a crippled economy. While we may be reaching the end of the pandemic soon, he said those headwinds are still an obstacle today, meaning producers must be creative by discovering new markets and alternative revenue streams.

Duvall also said AFBF convened a stakeholder group called the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, which includes farmers, ranchers, forest owners, environmental advocates, legislators and others that will work together to develop environmental policies and priorities. He said it's important to recognize farmers as partners during this time.

"The alliance united around three principles that guide our 40 recommendations: Support voluntary, market- and incentive-based policies; advance science-based outcomes; promote resilience and help rural economies better adapt to changes in the climate," Duvall said. "Advocating for the right policies – voluntary, market- and incentive-based solutions – will allow us to build on our sustainability advances and recognize farmers as partners in this effort, while helping to prevent a move toward the punitive policies discussed a decade ago."

Duvall also appealed to Congress to protect the agriculture sector from "undue burden."

"American farm families want to leave the land better than when it was first entrusted to our care. That is the story of my family’s farm in Georgia and the story of millions of farms across this country," Duvall said. "We want to protect the planet, feed and clothe people, and promote vibrant communities. Working with our partners, land-grant universities, policymakers, and the farmers and ranchers we represent Farm Bureau intends to continue finding solutions for the challenges of the future."