Flawed Climate Smart Commodities program

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Even at first glance, the US Department of Agriculture’s recently announced $3 billion “climate-friendly commodities partnerships” sound like duplicity, an Orwellian invention that reverses the meaning of words.

Or, more simply put, how can today’s commodity-centric, industrialized agriculture be anywhere near “climate friendly” when everyone in the food industry readily acknowledges that it is an oil-guzzling, climate-altering juggernaut?

The short, truthful answer is: You can’t.

But don’t tell that to the narrow-minded USDA politicians. On September 14, the USDA announced it was “investing up to $2.8 billion in 70 select projects under the first-ever Green Commodity Partnerships” to prove it can be done.

This seemingly admirable attempt, according to a Land Grant University agronomist well versed in climate change research, is actually the USDA hoping to put 10 pounds (organic matter) in the proverbial five-pound sack by it just uses his checkbook. “Good luck,” he offers.

But it will seek to explore, for example, how to “accelerate the long-term adoption of catch crops by creating a platform” that “quantifies, verifies and facilitates the sale of ecosystem benefits and creates a marketplace to generate demand for climate-smart products.” generate goods.”

The leader of this $95 million effort is agricultural research powerhouse, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation.

But don’t worry, the group will get help, the USDA explains, from “other key partners” like the National Corn Growers Association and – oddly enough – two commodity control groups, the National Pork Board and the United Soybean Board.

Stranger still is the presence of an even bigger helping hand, the Walton Family Foundation.

Why does the Wal-Mart clan want a fat finger in the cover fruit pie? The USDA says nothing, but the best guess is that the country’s largest grocer needs a seat at this table so it can secure any carbon credits it could hope to maintain — or even increase — its massive carbon footprint.

And so the USDA’s efforts go for 26 more pages and another nearly $2.6 billion in cash from the Commodity Credit Corporation.

Another program goal is the USDA’s plan to “build markets and fund farmers through results-based contracts to reduce and remove carbon by adopting new climate-friendly practices.”

The USDA doesn’t say what these “new practices” might be, but it will cost US taxpayers another $95 million to find out. Maybe.

However, the USDA acknowledges that the “major partners” in this project include PepsiCo, Cargill, Target and Coca-Cola.

These agbiz superpowers aren’t the only elephants crowding the USDA’s carbon trough. Other partners in other projects include Archer Daniels Midland, John Deere, Campbell Soup, Keurig-Dr. Pepper, Nestlé, Mosaic, Anheuser-Busch, Smithfield Foods, Bayer and many more.

All, the USDA explains, will be looking for ways to make more than 50 commodities — from corn to flax to chicken, forestry and fisheries — “climate friendly” over the next two to five years.

How, of course, will be a real trick, since today’s American food production machine is a fully integrated farm-to-table factory, humming on fossil fuels and emitting greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide and CO2.

Very few in agricultural research, however, expect breakthroughs: Commodity farming cannot be made “climate-smart” because, at its core, commodity farming is already an incredibly productive, climate-changing machine.

“We know,” says an agronomist at Land Grant University, “that we cannot sequester significant amounts of carbon in today’s commodity production systems. Not through conventional tillage, not through minimal sowing, not through no-till. That’s just an agronomic fact. So what are we doing with these USDA projects?” he wonders.

Another Land Grant University researcher is more outspoken in his view of the USDA’s “climate friendly” efforts: “A model that relies on those who created the problem to solve the problem is a deeply flawed model,” he offers.

And he adds: “[T]he ‘clever'” in money-consuming effort “lies in those who get that kind of money to do nothing. It’s more than smart, it’s genius.”

But it’s not a real, permanent climate solution, notes a third researcher from Land Grant University. “This is all greenwashing — vanity and greenwashing — to uphold today’s Ag policies.”

So up is down and smart is dumb and somewhere George Orwell is smiling.

Alan Guebert is an agricultural journalist. See past columns below farmandfoodfile.com. © 2022 ag come

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