With the recent switch in US presidents, it’s natural for farmers to wonder how they will be affected over the next four years. After all, emission reduction and environmental protection are top priorities of the Biden administration. With farming’s impact on the environment becoming an increasingly popular topic, the ag industry is likely to become more eco-centric across the board.
It’s understandable that farmers might be wary of what’s ahead. These kinds of changes can often involve additional busy work, reduced profits, and new expenses.
Thankfully, rather than forcing change or punishing farmers, current proposals focus on further incentivizing farmers to reduce emissions, practice green farming, store carbon, and protect their surrounding environment. Possible ways of doing this include expanding programs like the Conservation Reserve Program and establishing a carbon bank under the USDA.
Currently, however, these remain hypotheticals. At this point, the only action taken by President Biden that will likely affect farmers is rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement. Though no part of the Paris Agreement focuses specifically on farming, more than 80% of participating countries have agricultural emissions strategies included in their pledges.
This isn’t just because of the ag industry’s own contributions to carbon emissions but because farmers may have the greatest potential for storing carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Paris Climate Agreement
Originally drafted in 2015, the Paris Agreement is an international treaty that focuses on countries working together to combat climate change. The ultimate goal is to lower the global temperature to less than 2°C above preindustrial levels. To achieve this, participating countries will work to reduce greenhouse emissions, increase efficiency, and actively store carbon, as well as nitrogen.
How exactly this is done is left up to each country. It is the responsibility of each country to determine, plan, and regularly report on their contributions and undertakings.
The Paris Agreement is essentially the successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Originally signed in 1992, the Kyoto Protocol set out to accomplish similar goals of reducing greenhouse gas submissions. Though it initially had strong support, it ultimately failed due to a number of loopholes, exploits, and oversites.
One lasting impact it did leave was the framework for modern day carbon markets.
The Paris Agreement aims to fix the shortcomings of the Kyoto Protocol by focusing less on legal mandates. Instead, the Paris Agreement is consensus driven with countries determining their own targets and offering their plans voluntarily. It also doesn’t distinguish between developed and developing nations, unlike the Kyoto Protocol.
While the US was a founding participant in the Paris Agreement, President Trump expressed his intention to pull out of the agreement shortly into his term. This wasn’t able to officially happen until 2020. On his first day as President, Joe Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the agreement. As of February 19, the US is officially a part of the Paris Agreement once more.
What Does the Paris Agreement Mean for Farmers?
As mentioned already, agriculture remains largely absent in the actual verbiage of the Paris Agreement. This is likely due to how critical farming is to all countries, their economies, and their populations. Farmers themselves tend to have slim margins already. Placing additional restrictions and fees on them would likely only cause problems.
Though it remains to be seen what will happen in the long run, the Paris Agreement will likely create opportunities for farmers. With the distinct advantages of herbaceous sequestration, farmland has a lot of carbon storing power. Not only can this help reduce emissions, but the stored carbon also improves soil and plant health.
Meanwhile, a nationwide carbon market could allow farmers to earn credit for sequestered carbon, allowing them to sell it. With the Paris Agreement, we could even see this happen on an international level. Additionally, if the Biden administration decides to establish a carbon bank, farmers could receive money in exchange for establishing eco-friendly projects and practices.
Despite officially being in the Paris Agreement once more, it’s a lot of what-ifs for farmers at this point. In the meantime, farmers can get a head start on sequestering carbon and cutting emissions by establishing pollinator habitat or native grasslands through the Conservation Reserve Program.
We can help. To learn more about how to join and establish CRP, contact FDCE today!