WASHINGTON, D.C. — The agriculture sector announced Tuesday a new alliance focused on addressing climate change under a Biden administration.
The new Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, or FACA, brings together groups typically pitted against one another — food, farming, forestry and environmental organizations.
Barb Glenn, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, said the groups are “much more powerful” together than alone.
“We’re proud to have broken through historic barriers to form a unique alliance,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said at a virtual press conference Tuesday.
The goal, FACA’s leaders say, is to have a hand in climate policy on the front end rather than just fighting on the back end. This way, they say, farmers are less likely to get hurt.
“Our goal from the start was to be at the table with the policy development process, not sort of reacting after the fact,” Chuck Conner, president at CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, told the Capital Press.
FACA was formed in February by four groups that co-chair the alliance: the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Environmental Defense Fund and National Farmers Union.
Early on, leaders kept meetings secret and were simply “testing the waters.”
“To be honest, we didn’t know if we would ultimately reach an agreement,” said Duvall.
But the meetings were successful.
“It’s been surprisingly cordial. There’s a lot more we could agree on than any of us thought we could,” Callie Eideberg, director of government relations at the Environmental Defense Fund, told the Capital Press.
Eideberg said the alliance is a rare example of bipartisanship in a time of political polarization.
The group expanded to include the Food Industry Association, National Alliance of Forest Owners, National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and The Nature Conservancy.
Together, FACA members have developed more than 40 climate policy recommendations to hand over to the Biden administration and Congress. The policies are all voluntary, incentive-based programs designed to simultaneously slow environmental degradation and support farmers.
A few examples include expanding use of anaerobic digesters with manure, changing food labels to include both “best by” and “use by” dates to reduce food waste, creating performance-based tax credits for farms that improve soil health, encouraging carbon sequestration through financial incentives and more.
Rob Larew, president of the National Farmers Union, said FACA will start talking with Biden’s transition team immediately.
Conner of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives said some of the recommendations will require new legislation, but because FACA is bipartisan, he said he has high hopes in Congress.
Eideberg of the Environmental Defense Fund said she now has friendships with leaders of ag and forestry groups, and when climate issues arise in the future, she said she is likely to phone a friend like Zippy Duvall to ask his take on it.
“I know it sounds crazy, but we had fun together. I hate the word ‘unprecedented’ because people use it for everything in 2020. But hey, we might as well do something else unprecedented,” she said, and laughed.