In a disturbing trend of attacking the government’s ability to prepare for climate risks, the House passed an amendment to the fiscal 2012 agriculture spending bill that would prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from implementing new regulations on climate change adaptation. This amendment puts the nation at increased risk of food disruptions, forest fires and huge economic losses.
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who introduced the amendment, bizarrely claimed USDA’s climate adaptation policy was somehow a “backdoor door attempt to put a cap-and-trade program in place in the Department of Agriculture.”
Far from it. The commonsense USDA policy says only that agencies should plan for that future in a way that will prevent food disruptions, massive forest fires and economic hardships. It reads, “Through adaptation planning, USDA will develop, prioritize, implement and evaluate actions to minimize climate risks and exploit new opportunities that climate change will bring.”
The nation is still immersed in intense weather and climate-related disasters – from the Mississippi flood, to the Texas drought, to the Arizona fire. Some of these extreme events are happening in the same place.
“I can’t get my crop out of one side of the levee because it’s too dry and I’ve lost my crop on the other side of the levee because it’s floating away,” said George Lacour, 48, of Morganza, Louisiana. The state is bearing the brunt of much of the Mississippi flood as well as a state-wide severe drought.
Looking at the past record would not have prepared anyone for the devastating weather events this year – and the future is going to be different yet. Don’t we want our government to be planning for those changes?
The conditions we are seeing this year are breaking records. According to Texan Matt Farmer, “It’s as dry as I’ve ever seen it in my lifetime. I don’t remember a drought this widespread. I’ve got a lot of country that’s blowing, but I can’t do a thing about it.”
This year’s events are also consistent with the conditions researchers project are coming with climate change. Looking at the past record would not have prepared anyone for the devastating weather events this year – and the future is going to be different yet. Don’t we want our government to be planning for those changes?
Jamie Rappaport Clark, executive vice president for Defenders of Wildlife, said, “America’s farms, forests and ranchlands not only feed our country, but also help support abundant and diverse wildlife populations. Our food security, property and wildlife heritage are all at risk from increased frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, floods, fires and pests.
“Rep. Scalise and the 237 other members of the House are inhibiting the USDA’s ability to help farmers and forest owners and managers prepare for a future that includes more of the extreme weather events we have just experienced this spring. The future is not going to be the same as the past. This commonsense USDA policy says let’s plan for that future in a way that will prevent food disruptions, massive forest fires and economic hardships.”
The Senate should do right by the country’s farmers, forests and the people and wildlife that rely on them, and reject this amendment.