The executive order on climate change: agriculture is a big player, but what does this mean for your farm?

On January 27th, the Biden Administration issued Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Part I starts out, United States international engagement to address climate change — which has become a climate crisis — is more necessary and urgent than ever. The scientific community has made clear that the scale and speed of necessary action is greater than previously believed. There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentially catastrophic, climate trajectory. Responding to the climate crisis will require both significant short-term global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and net-zero global emissions by mid-century or before.

So what does this have to do with your farm?

The Order basically directs all government agencies to come together in a coordinated, focused way to tackle the climate change problem. The Department of Agriculture is included, as agriculture is a big player in the climate change game, being at once both a huge source of carbon emissions, and a huge source of potential carbon sequestration. Here’s one of the most key parts of the Order that relates to your farm:

(b) The Secretary of Agriculture shall:

  • (i) initiate efforts in the first 60 days from the date of this order to collect input from Tribes, farmers, ranchers, forest owners, conservation groups, firefighters, and other stakeholders on how to best use Department of Agriculture programs, funding and financing capacities, and other authorities, and how to encourage the voluntary adoption of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practices that decrease wildfire risk fueled by climate change and result in additional, measurable, and verifiable carbon reductions and sequestration and that source sustainable bioproducts and fuels.
  • (ii) submit to the Task Force within 90 days of the date of this order a report making recommendations for an agricultural and forestry climate strategy.

How does this relate to your farm again? Well, the upshot is that in the next few months, the government will tell us how it plans to motivate farmers to adopt climate-smart agricultural practices. What this hopefully means for your farm is that if you are already adopting climate-smart farming methods such as regenerative agriculture and the like, or are interested in doing this, you should be financially rewarded for your practices. In other words, the government can’t require climate-smart farming but it can pay farmers to do it.

So, stay tuned… also it’s unclear at this point how the Secretary of Agriculture will collect input from Tribes, farmers, ranchers and so on, but if you have the opportunity to provide this input, please do make your voices heard!

You can read the full Executive Order here.