“Climate Smart” Carrots Won’t Cut Farm Pollution Without Sticks

Friday, May 13, 2016


The Obama administration is right to regulate methane from oil and gas wells.

But there’s no good reason to exempt methane from agriculture – which is the second largest source of methane in the U.S. and the largest source globally.

As Grist reported, methane emissions from agriculture increased 11 percent from 1990 to 2014, but the voluntary “climate smart” program USDA announced on the same day as the new methane rule is one more Band Aid on the bleeding artery that is farm pollution. 

Rather than providing new funding, the “climate smart” program simply repackages existing voluntary conservation funds in the 2014 farm bill and creates no new rules.

As EWG has repeatedly documented, relying on voluntary conservation efforts has largely failed to address the serious environmental problems created by agriculture, which is the nation’s biggest source of water pollution.

EWG found that farmers who voluntarily start conservation practices can just as easily stop. And that’s exactly what has been happening across Iowa and other farm states.

Without rewards and rules, farmers don’t have incentives to adopt and maintain proven practices that reduce pollution and keep carbon in the soil.  Banking on more “collaboration” or “retail regulation” simply won’t be sufficient by itself.

No one should be surprised, of course, that Big Ag has earned one more exemption from public health and environmental laws.

Farmers are largely exempt from the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water and, unlike other polluters, don’t have to report their toxic emissions – including methane emitted by big livestock feedlots.

Want “climate smart” farming? We need carrots and sticks.


comments powered by Disqus