Elizabeth Warren Just Released Her Green New Deal for Farmers

Ya girl, Liz.
Ya girl, Liz.
Photo: AP

Senator Elizabeth Warren is back with a new plan for how she’d help farmers if she wins the White House.

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The Democratic presidential candidate has already released thorough plans on green manufacturing, the clean energy transition, immigration, and a whole lot more. Her latest plan, released on Wednesday, is right in line with a progressive vision of what sustainable, equitable agriculture could look like in the U.S. And in many ways, it’s exactly what the agriculture sector needs to look like if it’s going to thrive in an era of climate change all while feeding Americans.

The plan—dubbed “A New Farm Economy”—outlines programs and policies to help farmers adopt sustainable practices and make money. Warrens sees the agriculture sector as one piece to making a Green New Deal possible for the U.S. That can’t happen if the agriculture industry is still polluting the environment and draining natural resources. First on Warren’s agenda is following the money.

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Currently, most federal subsidies go to major corn, soy, cotton, rice, and wheat producers, not your local small-time farmer. Warren wants to make the subsidy program more inclusive of dairy as well as other crops that don’t rake in as much money nationally and aren’t as heavily subsidized as staple crops. The idea is that this could help address the overproduction of some crops, as well as de-incentivize farmers to grow these monocultures that drain and diminish the local soil quality.

Farmers will need to take on more sustainable practices, and Warren’s plan includes paying them to do so. For instance, planting cover crops that can restore soil nutrients and prevent runoff could score a local farmer some extra cash. She also plans to launch an Innovation Fund where those in the agriculture sector can test new farming methods that aren’t as exhausting on the environment. The plan commits $400 million to that effort as part of her larger $2 trillion Green Manufacturing Plan.

Sticking with this notion of a more sustainable future, the presidential hopeful’s plan also includes a commitment to make sure that rural farmers see their products enter local economies to improve American health and access to fruits and vegetables. Expanding the “Farm-to-School” program should help, and Warren’s plan would turn it into the “Farm to People” program. That includes requiring all federal institutions from military bases to the local Environmental Protection Agency office to partner with local suppliers.

What drought can do to some crops.
What drought can do to some crops.
Photo: AP
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And in true Warren fashion, she calls for the end of Big Ag. The main players of the industry like Monsanto and Tyson have great control and power over how the federal government regulates the industry. She wants to stop that by closing loopholes that funnel taxpayer dollars into these companies’ pockets and take them to court over the pollution they’re responsible for across the country. Bernie Sanders is the only other candidate who’s been clear he wants to break up the agribusiness, according to Politico.

Big Ag doesn’t just have a bad rep for dumping literal pig shit and dead chickens in our waterways. It has a bad rep for being an incredibly white space. Warren wants to help brown and black farmers break into the sector, too. The number of black farmers, in particular, has been on the rise in recent years despite overall growth falling, as YES! Magazine reported. Warren wants to see those numbers shoot up further by addressing the history of unfair land ownership laws that have kept black and indigenous people from holding onto lands that are rightfully theirs.

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The senator’s plans definitely shoot high, but Warren is dedicated to building the world she thinks we need. Many polls have Warren in second, right behind former Vice President Joe Biden. Other candidates, like Biden and former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, have offered their thoughts on the role farmers play in combating climate change but none with this level of detail.

Warren may be onto something.

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Yessenia Funes is climate editor at Atmos Magazine. She loves Earther forever.

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DISCUSSION

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This could be the best plan ever. Hell, it’s probably what’s needed going forward. However, there’s this thing called the electoral college that gives low population agriculture states a lot of political clout at the federal level.

There’s a reason why the National Corn Growers Association can go toe-to-toe with the American Petroleum Institute on ethanol blending - during an oil and gas boom - the likes of never seen in the history of oil and gas.

What’s this?

Warren wants to make the subsidy program more inclusive of dairy as well as other crops that don’t rake in as much money nationally and aren’t as heavily subsidized as staple crops.

Dairy is excluded from farm subsidies? Have you been to Wisconsin or the Central Valley of California or even upstate New York? I realize we don’t have blocks of government cheese being handed out to all takers like the 70s, but my god.

The fact of the matter is that over 75% of the farm bill goes to folks who need assistance (SNAP) to buy food. This is could be rural, suburban or urban folks. It could be white, brown and black folks. It could be grumpy and happy folks, too.

By the way, the conservation wedge is loved by wealthy city folks who buy up ag land to become gentleman farmers like Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey, but green.