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March 03, 2010

Farms in the balance: Countering attacks against EPA on climate

Attacks on the EPA have been coming fast and furious in the past few months. In contrast to Congress’s limp attempts to pass comprehensive climate legislation, the EPA has begun taking steps to address climate change. Most significantly, the agency declared greenhouse gases (GHGs) an “endangerment” to public health last year—a finding that enables the EPA to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act. That hasn’t sat well with those opposed to climate action.

In January, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a “resolution of disapproval” in the Senate that would kill the EPA’s ability to regulate GHGs. Although the resolution’s viability is unlikely, if passed it would require Obama’s signature, setting a disturbing precedent. The EPA decision was based on science. Murkowski’s resolution is pure politics. Congress shouldn’t have the authority to usurp science just because it doesn’t like the outcome.

Murkowski’s resolution has created something of a snowball effect. Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), chair of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced a copycat resolution in the House earlier this week, no doubt pleasing mightily his supporters in the Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers’ Association and other conventional agriculture groups who have come out strongly in favor of Murkowski’s resolution.

Those groups, of course, don’t speak for all of agriculture or rural America. To that end, IATP joined 25 other agriculture and rural organizations yesterday in delivering a letter to the Senate urging them to vote against Murkowski’s resolution. Our argument is simple: If we refuse to take action on climate change, we put at risk our nation’s food supply and farmers’ livelihoods. We feel strongly that a comprehensive legislative approach to climate policy is the best way to deal with this issue, but waiting to act—and denying the science—is terribly shortsighted. Farmers and rural residents are already feeling the negative effects of climate change. It is in all our best interests to take action now.

You can read the letter here.

Signatories include:

Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, Appalachian Sustainable Development, Beyond Pesticides, California Certified Organic Farmers, California Climate and Agriculture Network, Center for Rural Affairs, Family Farm Defenders, Food and Water Watch, Iowa Environmental Council, Island Grown Initiative, Kansas Rural Center, League of Rural Voters, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, National Organic Coalition, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Nebraska Wildlife Federation, Northeast Organic Farming Association Interstate Council, Organic Valley, Pesticide Action Network North America, Rodale Institute, Rural Advantage, Slow Food USA and The Organic Center.

Julia Olmstead

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